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