white protestant life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan
Publication Year: 2011
In 1920s Middle America, the Ku Klux Klan gained popularity not by appealing to the fanatical fringes of society, but by attracting the interest of “average” citizens. During this period, the Klan recruited members through the same unexceptional channels as any other organization or club, becoming for many a respectable public presence, a vehicle for civic activism, or the source of varied social interaction. Its diverse membership included men and women of all ages, occupations, and socio-economic standings. Although surviving membership records of this clandestine organization have proved incredibly rare, Everyday Klansfolk uses newly available documents to reconstruct the life and social context of a single grassroots unit in Newaygo County, Michigan. A fascinating glimpse behind the mask of America’s most notorious secret order, this absorbing study sheds light on KKK activity and membership in Newaygo County, and in Michigan at large, during the brief and remarkable peak years of its mass popular appeal.
Published by: Michigan State University Press
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My sincere thanks must first go to the Arts and Humanities Research Council in England, for the generous support that made the groundwork for this book possible. Also to Julie Loehr and the staff at MSU Press, for doing their best to make a first-time author’s journey run smooth. I am most grateful, too, to Richard Bessel and to Claudia Haake...
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The prevailing idea of the Ku Klux Klan in today’s popular discourse overwhelmingly involves a sinister and violently terroristic secret brotherhood, operating at society’s marginal, criminal, and racist extremes. Brought to mind, even just by mention of the initials KKK, are ghoulish images of menacing figures prowling the night, garbed in trademark white...
Ch. 1. Marketing, Membership, and Merchandise: The Klan Brand Comes to Town
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The Ku Klux Klan, as a fraternal membership organization, enjoyed phenomenal success throughout the United States during the early to mid-1920s. Its support, measured in the millions, was both geographically widespread and culturally mainstream. At least part of the reason for the Klan’s great success can be found in the very systematic and business-minded ...
Ch. 2. The Knights in Image and Idea: Popular Klannish Fantasy, Self-Portrayal, and Political Demonology
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The 1920s version of the Ku Klux Klan was highly conscious of its place in the popular imagination, seeking above all else to convince the American public of its good intentions, and in doing so gain the wider social acceptance that would allow it to thrive. Klan promoters took particular care to create positive associations for the order, which, in essence, meant a...
Ch. 3 An Everyman’s Klan: Behind the Masks in Newaygo County
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Around twenty miles from the western shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and about the same distance north of the city of Grand Rapids, lies the county of Newaygo. Predominantly rural, it is tucked away among picturesque inland lakes and woodland, with more than half of its land mass engulfed by the pastoral, leafy splendor of what is now the Manistee National...
Ch. 4. The Invisible Empire and Small-Town Sociability: Klan Recruitment Channels in Newaygo County
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During its mid-twenties heyday, there was no real escaping the Klan in the rural small towns in which it had taken root. The Klan was in business, it was in politics, in church, in the fraternal lodges and social clubs, in the diners, the billiard halls, the cinemas, the post offices, in the schoolhouses, and even at home. That is not to say, of course, that it was...
Ch. 5 Community, Church, and Klan: The Civic Lives of Ordinary Klansfolk and the Social Functions of KKK Pageantry
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A seemingly uncomplicated intersection with many aspects of everyday white Protestant social life lay behind the extraordinary popular appeal of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan in Newaygo County, just as it did in countless similar enclaves of Middle America. One aspect of this seems to have been an emphasis upon protecting old-fashioned community spirit and...
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The 1920s Ku Klux Klan in rural Newaygo County, and in the state of Michigan more widely, certainly appears to fit in with the “new historical appraisal” of the organization as championed in more recent regional studies by writers such as Shawn Lay and Leonard J. Moore. In his introduction to a particularly notable edited volume of case studies featuring six...
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Page Count: 350
Publication Year: 2011