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

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

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by David Cunningham
     
 

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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

Overview

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 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With the growing momentum of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement came a concomitant rise in white-supremacist domestic terrorism, specifically (if not exclusively) in the form of a revived Ku Klux Klan, whose first incarnation dated to 1866 Tennessee. Centering his analysis on North Carolina—a "progressive" state that nevertheless accounted for over half the membership of the United Klans of America (UKA) in 1965-66—Brandeis University sociologist Cunningham (There's Something Happening Here) offers a fascinating case study of the complexities of U.S. reactionary movement culture. Scrupulously examining the membership, leadership, highly placed allies, organizational and recruitment strategies, internecine feuds, and popular appeal of the Klan, as well as official responses to it, Cunningham demonstrates that the UKA's phenomenal growth in North Carolina occurred amid a relative absence of grassroots and establishment resistance to desegregation.Protestantism, nativism, and white supremacy had fertilized the growth of the KKK since 1915, and once again these served as basic elements of reactionary ideology. Moreover, Southern segregationism complemented the era's feverish anticommunism. Cunningham's study is a solid addition to the field and a worthy contribution to current debates about domestic terrorism. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"A fascinating case study... Cunningham's study is a solid addition to the field and a worthy contribution to current debates about domestic terrorism."
—Publishers Weekly

"All too often scholars tend to treat social movements as akin to organizations, as coherent, singular entities rather than as the unruly collections of groups and factions they tend to be. In this important book on the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina in the 1960s, Cunningham honors this messiness, while proposing a model of 'mediated competition' to explain local variation in the extent and form of Klan mobilization in the state. Anyone interested in the Klan, the civil rights movement, or social movements in general will want to have this on their shelf."
—Doug McAdam, Professor of Sociology, Stanford University

"Cunningham's nuanced study shows us why understanding the past is still relevant for today. In mapping the legacies of organized racial extremism in the midst of perceived scarcity of resources, Cunningham offers a road map for countering the rise of hate groups today."
—Susan M. Glisson, Executive Director, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

"David Cunningham's deeply researched and well-crafted Klansville, U.S.A. lifts the sheet on the civil rights-era Ku Klux Klan in its stronghold of North Carolina, supposedly the progressive South, where KKK membership far outstripped that of any other Southern state. The Carolina Klan blocked black voting, burned newly-integrated schools and committed hundreds of shootings, beatings, bombings, and other acts of terror. Setting this appalling story in the larger context of America's flirtation with the hooded order, Cunningham offers a look into the past-and into the mirror, where our shadows, memories and hopes abide."
—Tim Tyson, Duke University, and author of Blood Done Sign My Name

"In this important contribution, Cunningham has recovered a largely unknown, and counterintuitive state history, broadened our understanding of the regional variability of the 1960s Klan, and offered a well-theorized, wonderfully documented explanation of its emergence in one location."
—Contemporary Sociology

"This book is truly a valuable analysis of the connection between southern culture and politics, and the quality of both Cunningham's scholarship and his writing make this work a thought-provoking and valuable contribution to the study of the South."
—The Journal of Southern History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199752027
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/14/2012
Pages:
360
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

David Cunningham is Professor and Chair of Sociology and the Social Justice and 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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Klansville, U. S. A: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
airman732 More than 1 year ago
I heard the author being interviewed on public radio. I was surprised to hear about the strength of the Klan in North Carolina during the 1960's. I was a teenager, living in Greensboro, during the mid to late sixties. My parents, my aunts and uncles, were all active church members. I was also active in scouting. I don't remember hearing anything about the Klan, except in school or the newspapers. I purchased this book to learn more. It is well researched and well written by a very intellegent author. It has made me more aware of what was really going on around me as I led a sheltered life in the mostly segregated South. I now have a better understanding of the challenges faced by Dr. King and his followers. Thanks to David Cunningham for a job well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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