Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan
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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 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.
differences across states held fairly consistently across the mid-1960s (with Virginia an exception, as that state maintained a small membership until the UKA applied Jones’s North Carolina-style organizing tactics there after Raleigh-based Bob Kornegay became Virginia Grand Dragon in late 1965). 6. Oliver (1964c). 7. This point has been made, at least implicitly, in historical accounts of civil rights protest. For instance, Charles Payne (1995: 112–13) observes that in racially repressive
Starling, phone interview with author, September 6, 2003. 23. SHP Report from Speed to Moore, November 7, 1966, NCSA, Moore Papers, General Correspondence, 1966, Box 150, Folder: SHP; “Shooting Occurs at KKK Rally Sunday,” The Roanoke News, November 10, 1966; Kern (1966). 24. This dynamic was noted by US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who used North Carolina’s poor record in dealing with civil rights crimes to illustrate the need for tougher federal laws against racial violence (see Charlotte
a Theory of Movement Repression.” Sociological Theory 21, 1: 44–68. Edwards, Bob and John D. McCarthy. 2004. “Resources and Social Movement Mobilization.” In The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, edited by David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, and Hanspeter Kriesi (116–52). Malden, MA: Blackwell. Edwards, Laura F. 1998. “Captives of Wilmington: The Riot and Historical Memories of Political Conflict, 1865–1898.” In Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy, edited by
to threaten the peace of every community where they exist. I shall continue to fight them because I know their loyalty is not to the United States of America but instead to a hooded society of bigots. … So if klansmen hear my voice today, let it be both an appeal and a warning to get out of the Ku Klux Klan now and return to a decent society before it is too late.37 Nationally, the brutal crime helped build support for federal civil rights legislation. Following the president’s address, NAACP
both the top and the bottom. Cone Mills operated one diaper-hemming plant staffed entirely by black women and employed virtually no African Americans in traditionally white jobs in its other plants. The company rebuffed efforts to integrate its workforce, and until the passage of the Civil Rights Act it retained overt symbols of racial separation, including “white” and “colored” signs on drinking fountains. Cone executives repeatedly insisted that the company was bound by “local conditions” and