They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group

Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Author
Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Houghton Mifflin, $19 (176p) ISBN 978-0-618-44033-7
Reviewed on: 07/26/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
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In this comprehensive, accessible account, Newbery Honor author Bartoletti (Hitler Youth) draws from documentary histories, slave narratives, newspapers, congressional testimony, and other sources to chronicle the origins and proliferation of the Ku Klux Klan against the charged backdrop of Reconstruction politics and legislation. Bartoletti uses the letters and diaries of the founders of the KKK—six former Confederate officers—as well as some informed speculation to explain their incentive for starting a “club” to, in the words of an original member, “protect property and preserve law and order.” The author lives up to her introductory promise to avoid censoring racist language and images, and includes some horrifying descriptions of lynchings and murders perpetuated during KKK raids on freedmen’s homes, churches, and schools. Copious photos, engravings, and illustrations provide a hard-hitting graphic component to this illuminating book. And while Bartoletti notes that contemporary “hate groups wield none of the power or prestige that the Ku Klux Klan held in earlier years,” her account of attending a Klan meeting while researching the book is chilling to the core. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
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