Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949

By Glenn Feldman | Go to book overview

Introduction

The words "Ku Klux Klan" bring a host of images to mind. Most of these have been seared into the recesses of our collective consciousness by television, motion pictures, books, and other media. The Klan, for most of us, summons images that are eerie, macabre, mysterious, and at times even morbid. We think of shadowy figures in ghostly raiment, of giant wooden crosses burning in remote fields surrounded by hundreds of ghoulish figures, of ritual chanting by troupes of men gone mad at least temporarily, of shrieks in the night, gunshots, screams, and poltergeists on horseback, of mutilated black corpses hanging from trees, of blood, of riotous clashes on bridges and highways, of a sniper's lone bullet suddenly piercing the cover of night.

The Klan, while certainly all of these things, was a lot more. It was many things that most of us would rather forget. The KKK was, at various times throughout its long history, a powerful political organization and a fraternal and civic group that was tolerated by many people and even applauded by some.

This book focuses on the Klan phenomenon in Alabama, one of the nation's most important and infamous states. The example of Alabama will, I hope, afford insight into the most visible, resilient, and terrible version of fascism that America has ever produced.

Alabama, it must be said, is a special state. In virtually every period of American history it has made a name for itself, often for the worst reasons. During the 1890s, Alabamians lynched more people than any other state in the Union. In the 1920s, and even before, Birmingham earned a reputation as "bad, bad Birmingham," the "murder capital of the world." During the Great Depression, when the South enjoyed the dubious distinction of being

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Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Origins of the Revised Klan 11
  • 2 - The Civic, Educational, and Progressive Klan 21
  • 3 - The Moral and Religious Klan 37
  • 4 - The Racist and Nativist Klan 51
  • 5 - The Political Klan 63
  • 6 - The Year of the Whip 92
  • 7 - Elite War on the Klan 116
  • 8 - Limits of the Oligarchy's Campaign 137
  • 9 - Race Over Rum, Romans, and Republicans 160
  • 10 - Disloyalty, Revenge, and the End of an Era 193
  • 11 - 1930s Causes Celebres Scottsboro and Hugo Black 219
  • 12 - The Threat of Urban Radicalism 238
  • 13 - Farm, Factory, and Hooded Persistence 259
  • 14 - World War II and Postwar Alabama 285
  • 15 - Federal-State Interaction in the 1940s 305
  • Epilogue "To Wither Away" 325
  • Abbreviations 329
  • Notes 335
  • Bibliography 399
  • Index 427
  • About the Author 458
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