cover image Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan

Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan

Nancy MacLean. Oxford University Press, USA, $30 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-19-507234-1

MacLean, who teaches history at Northwestern University, offers a deft, close study of the Klan, which became in the 1920s ``the most powerful movement of the far right that America has produced.'' In this post-WW I era, white male Christian supremacy was challenged by black labor resistance, the budding of feminism and economic uncertainty. Analyzing a typical local Klan in Clarke County, Ga., MacLean describes its members as economically fragile and insecure middle-class men who responded to the group's ``reactionary populism:'' a mix of Protestant fundamentalism, anti-statist individualism, anti-Communism and anti-Wall Street capitalism. She describes Klan efforts to enforce morality regarding alcohol, gambling and prostitution, and how Klansmen used racial hatred--against blacks, Jews and immigrants--to displace their fears of change. MacLean suggests, counter to the claims of others, that the Klan was indeed violent. The group waned by the end of the decade; unlike in Europe, where fascism flourished, an improved economy as well as receding efforts by labor and blacks assuaged the fears of would-be Klan participants. Then, in the 1930s, MacLean notes, a ``strong and inclusive working-class movement'' precluded Klan resurgence. Photos not seen by PW. (May)