KLANSVILLE, U.S.A by David Cunningham


The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-era Ku Klux Klan
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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 supremacist group.

The author notes the importance of “taking the klan seriously,” which “helps to uncover and elevate the experiences of those victimized by its actions and ideas.” He chose North Carolina as the setting for his research, he writes, because its relatively progressive reputation regarding racial issues made it the unlikeliest of Southern states to host a rebirth of the KKK. Cunningham writes well, but lay readers may be impatient with his use of academic theory to explain the phenomenon. The author suggests the Klan’s successful organizing in North Carolina at the height of the civil rights movement was due to whites’ perception that the imposition of civil rights threatened their status; lacking mainstream outlets for segregationist resistance, they turned to the Klan by default. In addition, North Carolina law enforcement agencies were inclined to let Klan organizers speak out and rarely arrested them. As Cunningham ponders the 21st-century fallout from the Klan's influence decades ago, he attributes Southern states’ rejection of their traditional Democratic links in favor of the Republican Party’s embrace to the continued strength of white supremacist beliefs. He also suggests that the Klan's unchecked lawlessness played a role in fostering the high incidence of violent crime throughout North Carolina today.

An interesting academic study that labors to understand Klan members from inside their heads, while making it clear that the author abhors what the organization stood for.


Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-19-975202-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2012


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