Indiana had the largest and most politically significant state organization in the massive national Ku Klux Klan movement of the 1920s. Using a unique set of Klan membership documents, quantitative analysis, and a variety of other sources, Leonard Moore provides the first comprehensive analysis of the social characteristics and activities of the Indiana Klan membership and thereby reveals the nature of the group's political support.
Challenging traditional assumptions about the Klan, Moore argues that in Indiana the organization represented an extraordinarily wide cross section of white Protestant society. More than 25 percent of native-born men in the state became official members. Indeed, the Klan was many times larger than any of the veterans' organizations that flourished in Indiana at the same time and was even larger than the Methodist church, the state's leading Protestant denomination.
The Klan's enormous popularity, says Moore, cannot be explained solely by the group's appeal to nativist sentiment and its antagonism toward ethnic minorities. Rather, the Klan gained wide-spread support in large part because of its response to popular discontent with changing community relations and values, problems of Prohibition enforcement, and growing social and political domination by elites. Moreover, Moore shows that the Klan was seen as an organization that could promote traditional comunity values through social, civic, and political activities.
It was, he argues, a movement primarily concerned not simply with persecuting ethnic minorities but with promoting the ability of average citizens to influence the workings of soiciety and government. Thus, Moore concludes, the Klan of the 1920s may not have been as much a backward-looking aberration as it was an important example of one of the powerful popular responses to social conditions in twentieth-century America.
Few groups in our history are as fascinating and mysterious as the Ku Klux Klan. Its story is one of violence, political manipulation and intrigue, absurdity, and mesmerizing organizational and propaganda skills. Through shrewd political tactics and powerful leadership, the Klan has often been a potent force, as it encouraged Americans to protect themselves from those they find "unacceptable." Its actions have made it one of the most feared groups in America.In The Fiery Cross, Wyn Craig Wade traces the Klan from its beginnings after the Civil War as a social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, to the present. Wade provides us with the history of the group, which has gone through a number of declines and renaissances over the last hundred years. We follow the Klan's resurgence in 1915 after D.W. Griffith's epic film The Birth of a Nation depicted Klan members as heroic saviors of the old Southern society, to the swearing in of President Warren G. Harding as a Klansman in the Green Room, and from the Klan's championing of white supremacy as a response to the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, to their present day activities, aligning themselves with a variety of neo-fascist and right-wing groups in the American West. Finally, Wade provides us with an assessment of the Klan's future. The Fiery Cross provides an exhaustive analysis and perspective on this dark shadow of American society. It is long overdue.
For decades the most frightening example of bigotry and hatred in America, the Ku Klux Klan has usually been seen as a rural and small-town product-an expression of the decline of the countryside in the face of rising urban society. Kenneth Jackson's important book revises conventional wisdom about the Klan. He shows that its roots in the 1920s can also be found in burgeoning cities among people who were frightened, dislocated, and uprooted by rapid changes in urban life. Many joined the Klan for sincere patriotic motives, unaware of the ugly prejudice that lay beneath the civic rhetoric. Mr. Jackson not only dissects the Klan's activities and membership, he also traces its impact on the public life of the twenties. In many places-from Atlanta to Dallas, from Buffalo to Portland, Oregon-the Klan agitated politics, held immense power, and won elective office. The Ku Klux Klan in the City is a continuing and timely reminder of the tensions and antagonisms beneath the surface of our national life. "Comprehensively researched, methodically organized, lucidly written...a book to be respected."-Journal of American History.