Klansville, U.S.A: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-era Ku Klux Klan

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OUP USA, 2013 - History - 337 pages
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In the 1960s, on the heels of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and in the midst of the growing Civil Rights Movement, Ku Klux Klan activity boomed, reaching an intensity not seen since the 1920s, when the KKK boasted over 4 million members. Most surprisingly, the state with the largest Klan membership—more than the rest of the South combined—was North Carolina, a supposed bastion of southern-style progressivism. Klansville, U.S.A. is the first substantial history of the civil rights-era KKK's astounding rise and fall, focusing on the under-explored case of the United Klans of America (UKA) in North Carolina. Why the UKA flourished in the Tar Heel state presents a fascinating puzzle and a window into the complex appeal of the Klan as a whole. Drawing on a range of new archival sources and interviews with Klan members, including several state and national leaders, the book uncovers the complex logic of KKK activity. David Cunningham demonstrates that the Klan organized most successfully where whites perceived civil rights reforms to be a significant threat to their status, where mainstream outlets for segregationist resistance were lacking, and where the policing of the Klan's activities was lax. Moreover, by connecting the Klan to the more mainstream segregationist and anti-communist groups across the South, Cunningham provides valuable insight into southern conservatism, its resistance to civil rights, and the region's subsequent dramatic shift to the Republican Party. Klansville, U.S.A. illuminates a period of Klan history that has been largely ignored, shedding new light on organized racism and on how political extremism can intersect with mainstream institutions and ideals.

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KLANSVILLE, U.S.A: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-era Ku Klux Klan

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Cunningham (Sociology/Brandeis Univ.; There's Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan, and FBI Counterintelligence, 2004) digs deeply into the relatively recent history of the white ... Read full review

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Q. How did you like the book?
A. Actually, I didn't. This is an academic book. David, the author, is a sociologist. He does his job as a sociologist, I suppose, amassing all sorts of documentary
evidence and interviews with and about the Klan. But he leaves most of the reading public in the dust. The details are overwhelming and we rarely see any of the individuals, people like Shelton or Jones.
Q. So you were looking more for biographical information compared to sociological information?
A. Yes, I think so.
Q. But you finished the book?
A. I did, but I did speed read some of the details on the North Carolina elections and such. These, I think, can only be of interest to specialists. Meaning other sociologists or maybe historians.
Q. Did you learn anything from the book?
A. David's perspective, trying to see how the Klanspeople felt during the decades after World War II, feeling pressed to assert themselves, always afraid they would be left out, that was new to me. I think it was Bob Jones who kept asking, the Catholics have this, the Jews have that, the blacks have this, so why can't we white people have our own thing? They were like childish teenagers who had to form their own club because they were left out of other clubs at high school. But those pointed hats and robes really look goofy today.
Q. So you don't recommend the book to the general reader?
A. No. David's cohorts, his students, the people he rubs shoulders with at his school and his conferences, and a few others with academic interests, those are the readers who might wade through this book. Of course, individual chapters can be read by researchers, I suppose. I like to read the whole book, even if I have to speed read parts of it.


The Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and the Nation
2 The Rise of the Carolina Klan
The United Klans of America and Southern Politics
4 Klan Recruitment in North Carolina Counties
5 Joining the Klan
6 Locating Klansville USA
7 The Fall of United Klans
How the Carolina Klan Doesand DoesntMatter in the PostKlan South

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About the author (2013)

David Cunningham is Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology and the Social Justice & Social Policy Program at Brandeis University. Over the past decade, he has worked with the Greensboro (N.C.) Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the Mississippi Truth Project, and served as a consulting expert in several court cases. The author of There's Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan, and FBI Counterintelligence, his current research focuses on the causes, consequences, and legacy of racial violence.

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