The Ku Klux Klan is the oldest and most well-known hate group in the United States. At one point, during its heyday, the Klan boasted a membership of around 4 million. That number has greatly dwindled, with the Southern Poverty Law Center putting current numbers between 8,000 and 10,000. Despite their fewer numbers, the KKK has seen some recent exposure in mainstream society, most notably during this campaign season.
In February, former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, and politician, David Duke expressed support for Donald Trump, telling listeners of his radio show they would “meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have” if they went to one of his rallies and that “voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.” Trump came under heavy criticism for not immediately and consistently disavowing Duke. When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump if he would disavow Duke, his response was, “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists….So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.” A few days later, Trump did reject Duke’s support, telling NBC: “I don’t mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke. And I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference…. I have no problem disavowing groups, but I’d at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group if the group shouldn’t be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are. But I disavowed David Duke.”
Photographer Peter van Agtmael, on assignment for a European magazine, in 2015, headed to Tennessee and Maryland, where he spent time with some members of today’s KKK. His pictures offer us a glimpse into a world that despite having been around for a long time in the United States, is still rarely seen by most Americans.