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

David Cunningham

Language: English

Pages: 360

ISBN: 0199391165

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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Louisiana, did nothing to assuage these concerns. “Elimination of the influence of the Klans alone will not bring the peace and order we all desire,” Willis told reporters. “There are other racial agitators at work in all parts of the country. The Committee is aware that Communist influence is at work in this field.” The KKK hearings, according to Willis and his HUAC colleague, Alabama congressman John Buchanan, should rightfully be part of a broader investigation of extremism, centered on civil

promising to break down institutionalized economic, political, and social advantages long enjoyed by the state’s white residents. The scope of such change varied from community to community, based on the degree to which racial groups would compete on newly constituted economic and political playing fields. Ethnic competition theory highlights how the composition of local labor markets, the relative presence of racial minorities, and the skills and political efficacy that those groups possess all

Elizabeth City. The Keystone Club in Henderson constructed a new building on four acres of land its members purchased in 1966 (see SBI report #4 to the Law and Order Committee, July 28, 1966, NCSA, Moore Papers, General Correspondence, 1966). 20. FBI, COINTELPRO–White Hate Groups Memo from SAC, Charlotte to Director, August 9, 1967; “News from Klansville,” April 7, 1967, and October 21, 1967, NCSA, Moore Papers, General Correspondence, 1967. 21. Justice (1965); Jefferys (1965); SBI report from

governor in 1960, losing a bitter primary battle against Sanford. Adopting a similar platform in 1964, he entered the race as the segregationist standard-bearer. Moore was the self-consciously middle-ground candidate. Like Preyer, he was a World War II veteran and former judge. As a relative political outsider, he had no strong connections to the Hodges or Sanford machines. His primary asset was his ability to convincingly portray himself as a reasonable alternative to “dangerous extremes”

Another UKA bulletin trumpeted the best way to bring any “Joe” into the klan: identify a likely friend or acquaintance and “talk to him”: Get him interested in the klan. Keep an eye peeled. It does not matter what society, organization, club or civic group he may already belong to just so long as he measures up to the ideals and qualifications as required by the klan.17 Personal connections, in particular intensive family bonds, in many cases served to create a broadly shared sense of

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