The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition

Linda Gordon. Liveright, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63149-369-0
Gordon (Impounded), professor of history at NYU and two-time Bancroft Prize winner, delves into the cultural and societal conditions that led to the resurgence of the KKK during the 1920s. The work is explicitly informed by the 21st-century rise of conservative populism in America, but Gordon largely leaves direct comparisons with contemporary politics to her readers. She argues that the Klan in the 1920s was a mainstream manifestation of persistent currents in American history that are often dormant but surface periodically. While rejecting the KKK’s philosophy, Gordon acknowledges the effectiveness of the Klan’s leaders at recruitment and translating their corresponding political power into legislation consistent with their philosophy, specifically antimiscegenation laws and immigration restrictions. Among the strategies she describes is the appeal to a number of American ideological strains: racism, nativism, temperance, fraternalism, and Christian evangelicalism. Recruiters were given pyramidlike economic incentives, and there was widespread use of propaganda and demagoguery to create the perception of threats to white supremacy. Gordon also provides insights into the surprising effectiveness and independence of the women’s auxiliaries to the exclusively male KKK. This clear-eyed analysis illuminates the character and historic power of America’s own “politics of resentment.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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