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

By Glenn Feldman | Go to book overview

12
The Threat of Urban Radicalism

While the Scottsboro and Hugo Black affairs kept Alabama's KKK in a state of excitement during the 1930s, much Klan activity also centered on Birmingham, a place of intense unrest during the Great Depression. Much of the unrest concerned the arrival of the southern Communist Party headquarters in the city. The Communists set up shop and began publication of their official party organ, the Southern Worker, in 1930. They soon had several hundred members on their rolls. Birmingham was especially valuable to the Communist effort in the South and other parts of Alabama because it served as a convenient launching point for organizing drives among south Alabama's impoverished sharecroppers. Affiliated Communist groups such as the International Labor Defense also set up operations in the city, and the Communist Party actually ran candidates for public office in Alabama in 1932 and 1934. Although the party was hopelessly unsuccessful politically, it was able to organize members in Birmingham, especially among workers in the mining and metal industries, and domestic service. The fledgling Communist Party was 80 percent black in Alabama and comprised a number of quite militant, sometimes violent black women in Birmingham.1

In a state defined by its xenophobia, communism epitomized an alien threat. "When the Communists entered the Magic City," one historian has written, "they entered a world unaccustomed to 'Reds' outside the pale of mythology." Most Alabamians associated communism with godless atheism, southern European radicalism, or turmoil in the North Carolina textile mills--three decidedly negative reference points for most natives of Alabama.2 Two northern white Communists--Tom Johnson of Cleveland and Harry Jackson of San Francisco--set up a beachhead in the city with the assistance of an Italian immigrant metal worker named J.J. Giglio. The three

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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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