Second Coming of the Kkk : The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition
by Gordon, Linda

Examines the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1920s as an organization of white, Protestant, native-born citizens who combined Christian values with racial bigotry to become a major political force.

Nearly a century ago, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) enjoyed a resurgence after decades of post-Civil War decline. America in the 1920s was ripe for the organization's appeal, that of a secret fraternal society that extolled the virtues of racial segregation, exhorted members to denounce Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and African Americans, and exemplified ideals of strict morality and fervent patriotism. Most often associated with the rise of discrimination in the Reconstruction South, the KKK of the 1920s sought to expand its reach and its coffers into other regions of the country. Due to an extensive and sophisticated PR machine, the KKK attracted millions of actual members and more covert sympathizers in little towns and urban areas throughout the Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest. Its vitriol and rhetoric were not new then but, most disturbingly, are all too familiar in today's political arena, lending Gordon's retrospective an urgency and relevance that make it required reading for anyone striving to understand the present through a considered analysis of the past. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

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 tha t 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. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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