Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku KIux Klan

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku KIux Klan

Article excerpt

Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku KIux Klan. By David Cunningham. (New York and other cities: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xiv, 337. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-975202-7.)

David Cunningham's Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku KIux Klan is an intricate examination of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) during the years of the civil rights movement, primarily in North Carolina. Through a masterful weaving of accessible prose, statistical examination, and theoretical analysis, Cunningham complicates the traditional narratives regarding the "third wave" of the racially motivated terrorist organization and in the process provides keen insights into the cultural, social, and above all political aspects of the South. While the historiography of the KKK during this period has primarily focused on states like Mississippi and Alabama, where Klan violence was particularly gruesome and prevalent, Cunningham examines the state with the largest membership and the surface-level paradox of high Klan activity in a state attempting to brand itself as progressive.

Through extensive primary and secondary research, Cunningham reveals a number of interesting structural relationships surrounding the Klan. He effectively argues that the post--World War II KKK was more accurately a near-seamless continuation of its predecessors, as each adaptation of the organization framed itself within the context of the previous versions' ideologies, missions, and structures. Additionally, in his section analyzing those who joined the third KKK, Cunningham reveals the multigenerational appeal of the organization, as men joined the latest version of the group with which their forefathers were affiliated. Further, he demonstrates the correlation between the regressive policies of a state and the relative attraction to the Klan. This analysis explains why membership was so high in a state like North Carolina, where politicians intentionally took more centrist political stances. Cunningham contends that in places like Mississippi, where the state functioned as a regressive, white supremacist organization itself, fewer individuals felt it necessary to do more than vote as a means to advance their anti-civil rights agenda or as a way to protect what they saw as their economic, political, and social interests as white southerners. …

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