This threat letter, which dates to 1868, is from an anonymous KKK member to a black elected official in Lincoln County, Ga. The KKK was still very new at the time. In the state elections of 1867 and 1868, many offices went to Republican candidates who were either African-American or sympathetic to freedmen's rights. This perceived outrage catalyzed the statewide organization of the Klan.
By the summer of 1868, the group had begun attacking people it viewed as enemies. At the end of that year, the Freedmen's Bureau tallied 336 cases of murder—or assault so severe as to constitute an assassination attempt—committed against ex-slaves in the state.
The letter's writer takes the voice of the ghost of a Confederate soldier. “I am here now as Locust in the day time and at night I am a Ku Klux sent here to look after you and all the rest of the radicals and make you know your place,” the writer threatens. The author heightens the sense of surveillance by referring to all of the Confederate dead as a silent force surrounding the reader: “200,000 ded [sic] men retured [sic] to this country to make you all the rest of the radicals good Democrats and vote right with the white people.”
A note on the back of the letter reads: “This man [the author] was elected in April to the Sherrifs [sic] Office of the County of Lincoln. Similar threats have prevented all the other Republican officers from taking their commissions.”
A transcript of the letter follows the image.
Previously on The Vault: An advertisement for a Ku Klux Klan summer “Kamp,” 1925.
Transcript (from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History):
Notice, To Jeems, Davie, you, must, be, a good boy. and. Quit. hunting on Sunday and shooting your gun in the night, you keep people from sleeping. I live in a big rock above the Ford of the f Creek. I went from Lincoln County [struck: C] County during the War I was Killed at Manassus in 1861. I am here now as Locust in the day Time and. at night I am a Ku Klux sent here to look after you and all the rest of the radicals and make you know your place. I have got my eye on you every day, I am at the Ford of the creek every evening From Sundown till dark I want to meet you there next Saturday tell platt Madison we have, a Box. For him and you. We nail all, radicals up in Boxes and send them away to K K K - there is. 200 000 ded men retured to this country to make you and all the rest of the radicals good Democrats and vote right with the white people you have got it to do or leave this country no nigger is safe unless he Joins the Democratic Club then you will be safe and have friends. Take heed and govern yourself accordingly and give all your Friends timely warning., Ku, Ku, Klux, Klan.