Freelance photographer Johnny Milano recently encamped with members of the Ku Klux Klan in rural Tennessee and took a series of photos for Reuters capturing Klan members at their most candid moments.
Milano started photographing white supremacists in 2012 as part of a long term documentary project. He reached out to the National Socialist Movement, a white supremacist group, and was granted permission to photograph Klan meetings and events. Since then, he has been travelling from state to state attending “cross lighting” ceremonies.
The following photos, taken over the last year, are of various groups affiliated with the Klan in Hunt and Carter counties in Tennessee. The groups include the Virgil Griffin White Knights, the Rebel Brigade Knights, the Nordic Order Knights, and the Adirondack Fraternity White Knights.
The Klan was founded in 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee as a vehicle of white resistance following the abolishment of slavery at the end of the Civil War. The groups primary goal was to reestablish white supremacy in America and it sought to accomplish this by waging a campaign of hate and violence against blacks and other minority groups.
At the Klan’s peak in the 1920’s, the hate group could boast a membership of over 4 million Americans, according to the History Channel. Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that Klan membership has dwindled to some 5000 to 8000 members spread across several dozen organisations that use the Klan name.
Over the weekend, members of the Ku Klux Klan clashed with members of the New Black Panther Party — an African-American based hate group — outside the State House in Columbia, South Carolina during a protest over the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds.
Five people were arrested during the altercation, and seven others were transported by ambulances for medical treatment, CNN reported.
Through his photos, Milano says his goal is to remind us that “history doesn’t go away so easily.”
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