A Reuters photographer provides a disturbingly intimate look into the Klu Klux Klan

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.

Klan1REUTERS/Johnny MilanoA tattoo on the knuckles of a Klansman reads ‘Love’ as he participates with members of the Nordic Order Knights and the Rebel Brigade Knights, groups that both claim affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, in a ceremony on a fellow member’s property.
Klan4REUTERS/Johnny MilanoMembers of the Adirondack Fraternity White Knights display their tattoos and salute during a cross and swastika lighting. 8 Nov. 2014. Hunt County, United States
Klan7REUTERS/Johnny MilanoMembers of the Virgil Griffin White Knights, a group that claims affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, hold a ceremony for new members at a private farm house in Carter County, Tennessee July 4, 2015.
Klan12REUTERS/Johnny MilanoMembers of the Rebel Brigade Knights and the Nordic Order Knights, groups that both claim affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, hold their lit torches during a cross lighting ceremony at a private residence in Henry County, Virginia, October 11, 2014.
Klan8REUTERS/Johnny MilanoEric, a member of the Virgil Griffin White Knights, a group that claims affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, shows off a noose that hangs in the barn of a private farm in Carter County, Tennessee, July 4, 2015.
Klan9REUTERS/Johnny MilanoMembers of the Virgil Griffin White Knights, a group that claims affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, encircle a cross lighting ceremony at a private farm house in Carter County, Tennessee, July 4, 2015.
Klan10REUTERS/Johnny MilanoA female and male member of the Virgil Griffin White Knights, a group that claims affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, pose for a photograph in their robes ahead of a cross lighting ceremony at a private farm house in Carter County, Tennessee July 4, 2015.
Klan14REUTERS/Johnny MilanoJim, (C), a member of the Nordic Order Knights, a group that claims affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, speaks at a public rally outside a courthouse in Stuart, Virginia, August 9, 2014.
Klan11REUTERS/Johnny MilanoMembers of the Rebel Brigade Knights and the Nordic Order Knights, groups that both claim affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, gather for a group photograph in front of a lit cross after a cross lighting ceremony at a private residence in Henry County, Virginia, October 11, 2014.

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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