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 On Thanksgiving night a small band of hooded men gathered atop Stone Mountain an imposing granite butte just outside Atlanta With a flag fluttering in the wind beside them a Bible open to the

  • Title: Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan
  • Author: Nancy MacLean
  • ISBN: 9780195098365
  • Page: 473
  • Format: Paperback
  • On Thanksgiving night, 1915, a small band of hooded men gathered atop Stone Mountain, an imposing granite butte just outside Atlanta With a flag fluttering in the wind beside them, a Bible open to the twelfth chapter of Romans, and a flaming cross to light the night sky above, William Joseph Simmons and his disciples proclaimed themselves the new Knights of the Ku Klux KlOn Thanksgiving night, 1915, a small band of hooded men gathered atop Stone Mountain, an imposing granite butte just outside Atlanta With a flag fluttering in the wind beside them, a Bible open to the twelfth chapter of Romans, and a flaming cross to light the night sky above, William Joseph Simmons and his disciples proclaimed themselves the new Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, named for the infamous secret order in which many of their fathers had served after the Civil War Unsure of their footing in the New South and longing for the provincial, patriarchal world of the past, the men of the second Klan saw themselves as an army in training for a war between the races They boasted that they had bonded into an invisible phalanx stand as impregnable as a tower against every encroachment upon the white man s liberty the white man s country, under the white man s flag Behind the Mask of Chivalry brings the invisible phalanx into broad daylight, culling from history the names, the life stories, and the driving passions of the anonymous Klansmen beneath the white hoods and robes Using an unusual and rich cache of internal Klan records from Athens, Georgia, to anchor her observations, author Nancy MacLean combines a fine grained portrait of a local Klan world with a penetrating analysis of the second Klan s ideas and politics nationwide No other right wing movement has ever achieved as much power as the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and this book shows how and why it did MacLean reveals that the movement mobilized its millions of American followers largely through campaigns waged over issues that today would be called family values Prohibition violation, premarital sex, lewd movies, anxieties about women s changing roles, and worries over waning parental authority Neither elites nor poor white trash, most of the Klan rank and file were married, middle aged, and middle class Local meetings, or klonklaves, featured readings of the minutes, plans for recruitment campaigns and Klan barbecues, and distribution of educational materials Christ and Other Klansmen was one popular tome Nonetheless, as mundane as proceedings often were at the local level, crusades over morals always operated in the service of the Klan s larger agenda of virulent racial hatred and middle class revanchism The men who deplored sex among young people and sought to restore the power of husbands and fathers were also sworn to reclaim the white man s country, striving to take the vote from blacks and bar immigrants Comparing the Klan to the European fascist movements that grew out of the crucible of the first World War, MacLean maintains that the remarkable scope and frenzy of the movement reflected less on members power within their communities than on the challenges to that power posed by African Americans, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and white women and youth who did not obey the Klan s canon of appropriate conduct In vigilante terror, the Klan s night riders acted out their movement s brutal determination to maintain inherited hierarchies of race, class, and gender Compellingly readable and impeccably researched, The Mask of Chivalry is an unforgettable investigation of a crucial era in American history, and the social conditions, cultural currents, and ordinary men that built this archetypal American reactionary movement.

    One thought on “Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan”

    1. Within studies of the 1920s KKK, there has recently been movement of "revisionism," which has questioned the assumptions of earlier writers that the Klan was primarily rural and Southern, has suggested that they were more concerned about curbing the power of Catholic immigrants than about blacks, and has even shown that the KKK was often involved in social reform rather than terrorism. Nancy MacLean, in responding to this academic trend, has been labeled a "re-revisionist" by some. She wrote thi [...]

    2. I bought this book at the same time that I bought MacLean’s Democracy In Chains. It turned out to be a great decision!MacLean’s focus is on the so-called Second Klan — the Post World War I version — which remains the most powerful and significant version of the group in terms of its national influence. Using a trove of documents from the Athens, GA, Klan and national news coverage of other Klan activities, MacLean exposes the heart of the Klan’s racism but also places the organization [...]

    3. This could be a bit of an eye-opener: Firstly, that the KKK, which now consists of smatterings of marginal types, was once a thriving organization with literally thousands of members; also, that said organization, which is generally depicted as consisting of low-rent backwoods yahoos, mainly sprang forth from the upper middle class (business owners, govt. officials, etc.). MacLean digs deep into what records there are of the times to bring forth a vivid history. Recommended.

    4. A case study of the (re)formation of the KKK in Athens, Georgia during the early interwar period, this book is predominantly an argument against the idea that the Klan were in any way alien or aberrant to American society, situating them instead as an extreme version of the fraternal societies with whom they frequently shared members. The Klan’s membership was predominantly comprised of lower-middle class but upwardly mobile men who saw industrialization, labor organization, and nascent black [...]

    5. Nancy MacLean’ Behind the Mask of Chivalry examines the Ku Klux Klan at its most insidious: the opening of the 1920s. Using its activity in Athens, Georgia, as a case study, she probes its tactics, its composition, its worldview, and its impact. She demonstrates that the Klan’s lingering horror stems not from its penchant for burning homes and whipping people, but that the most respectable castes of society could hide behind its robes. Viewing the Klan essentially as a reactionary, populist [...]

    6. I forget how recently the shift from the Dunning School has happened in US history. MacLean argues convincingly that the Klan of the '20s was a menace and enforcer of white supremacy. She demonstrates how although we like to write off the Klan as white trash and aberrations, the Klan was made up of the middle class and routinely surfaces in US history during times of distress and ebb of the Left in US life. She also traces how class, race and gender shaped the Klan - and considering the date of [...]

    7. Growing up, I mainly learned about racism and the Ku Klux Klan. Nancy MacLean's book went beyond the typical perception of the Klan and more into who the Klan was, why it grew in influence around the 1920s, along with the Klan members' motivations and goals. She used the term "reactionary populism" to describe the Klan's influence around the 1920s. (xiii) This "reactionary populism" was evident in the middle members of society who attached themselves to the Klan during a time of economic turbule [...]

    8. In our current political climate of racist anti-immigrant rhetoric and "birther" movements a historical understanding of the KKK is important. Also, as a young white woman, understanding the guise of protecting white female virtue as a tool for racial violence and domination gives a critical view on the contemporary debate of reproductive freedom and rape laws. While access to universal health care and freedom from sexual violence are human rights, U.S. legal structures around both issues have a [...]

    9. I am struggling to understand what make someone watch FOX News or follow Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, etc. only to wind up in complete opposition to the exact government policies that would benefit them the most. What makes approximately 1% of the US population vehemently opposed to the government looking out for their own best interests?I've always chalked it up to them being united by their hate. Not overt, cross burning and lynching racism. But the subtle, insidious hatred of comfortable, middle [...]

    10. MacKlean argues that the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s was based in the politics of reactionary Populism: dedicated to white supremacy and conservative values. While MacKlean thus connects Klan activity to nationally entrenched political networks, much of her evidence and narrative is based in Athens Georgia. This disconnect rendered her argument less compelling and less convincing. However, while other scholars have argued for the unifying influence of white supremacy, a strength of Maclean's accou [...]

    11. The history of the making of the second Ku Klux Klan starting in 1915 is scary. MacLean tells the story grounded in a case study of Athens, Georgia. To see how their view of Protestant Christianity was bound up with their fears of a changing world and how they felt entitled to use violent vigilante means to control African-Americans, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and women is frightening. We still have strong strains of this worldview today.

    12. An extremely detailed look into the second rising of the KKK via the case study of the klan chapter in Athens, Georgia. MacLean discusses various influences on their rising strength during the early 1920's. She discusses the contributing factors of class, industrialization, "red" scare, changing social dynamics, among many others. An interesting and insightful investigation!

    13. Intriguing discussion of the interrelation of racism and gender politics. Unfortunately there are some holes in the data the book is founded on (specifically, MacLean fails to account for the chronological changes of the Klan's popularity).

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