A revealing, well-researched—and, unfortunately, contemporarily relevant—investigation of the KKK’s wide support in the...



An award-winning historian of social movements examines the unlikely rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the North after World War I, underscoring the organization’s ideas that “echo again today.”

Among those ideas were white supremacy, Christian evangelicalism, suspicion of elites, anti-intellectualism, fear of immigrants, and a conviction that American values were under dire threat. Gordon (Humanities and History/New York Univ. Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, 2009, etc.), the winner of two Bancroft Prizes, argues persuasively that the Klan was visible and respected, drawing its membership from the middle class. “In many areas,” she writes, “Klan membership brought prestige” and “community status.” Like other contemporary fraternal organizations, such as the Masons and Rotarians, the Klan fostered “male bonding through brotherhood and ritual.” Elaborate and arcane rituals involved “Klan water,” purchased from the organization’s national headquarters, “where it was made sacred, like holy water.” Membership required learning an intricate vocabulary of rank. The Imperial Wizard reigned over three Great Klaliffs, the Great Klabee, the Great Kligrapp, the Great Kludd, and the Great Night-Hawk, and “chapters were known as Klaverns, each headed by an Exalted Cyclops.” New members were “naturalized” at a Klonversation, and the officers of a Klavern were known, tellingly, as Terrors. The Klan was funded through initiation fees, dues, and a pyramid scheme, whereby recruiters worked on commission; the Klan also sold costumes and memorabilia. A member could buy “a zircon-studded Fiery Cross” as a brooch for his wife. Gordon examines in particular Klan popularity in Portland, Oregon, once a bastion of racism, and the attraction of the organization to at least half a million women, many of whom were active in other reform groups, such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In the late 1920s, the Klan was beset by infighting, money troubles, and scandals that exposed leaders’ hypocrisy and misbehavior. Its appeal diminished, and membership dwindled. But as the author amply shows, its fearful, angry spirit lives on.

A revealing, well-researched—and, unfortunately, contemporarily relevant—investigation of the KKK’s wide support in the 1920s.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63149-369-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?