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258Southern Cultures Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan. By Nancy MacLean. Oxford University Press, 1994. 292 pp. Cloth, $30.00. Reviewed by John Herbert Roper, professor of history at Emory and Henry College. His books include UB. Phillips, A Southern Mind and Paul Green's War Songs: A Southern Poet's History of the Great War, 1917-1920. When Nancy MacLean unmasks the Ku Klux Klan, the results are predictably bad for the KKK. But the results are even worse for good people, solid citizens, the progressive middle class, all of us who can say, as did the late writer Truman Capote, "My parents and my neighbors were racists, but at least they didn't join the Ku Klux Klan." Truman Capote often repeated this line at appearances in college and university towns, and his audiences usually nodded in agreement. Fittingly, Nancy MacLean takes for her field of investigation exactly such a town: Athens, Georgia. MacLean removes layers of masks, and when she finishes, no face appears, only a shattered mirror. She stubbornly points out that the resulting reflections are a part of our very natures. It is tempting to re-mask this messy visage, because in the fragments before us, we see what we consider our very best: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Republican Whigs of the Revolutionary Era, the Populists, mainstream Protestant churches, Boy Scout leaders, hard-working business proprietors, citizens who want husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to love their children. It is hardly a shock, though, that as MacLean lifts the first layer, the mask ofchivalry, which gives the book its title, she reveals a group of paramilitary terrorists with a distinct political agenda. Many scholars before MacLean, most notably Allen W. Trelease in White Terror (1971), have demonstrated that the original KKK and related groups, such as the Knights of the White Camellia and the Red Shirts in the 1870s, used paramilitary violence to throw out duly elected African American officials and to intimidate African American voters and their always skittish allies, the local Republicans. The first KKK and similar groups were organized thugs, proving that violence and fraud succeed in elections in places a lot closer to home than Central America. Eric Foner's magisterial work, Reconstruction (1988), ringingly reaffirms this message, and notes that the first Klan's work and character inspired the second Klan, formed in the early 1920s. When she pulls off the next mask, MacLean shows that the second Klan had a more diffuse political agenda, but again was a collection of organized thugs whose goal was regaining or retaining power. The KKK of the 1920s, however, focused its agenda on gender issues, the sexual revolution, and labor disputes, as much as on race. A lovely university town in Georgia's northeastern Piedmont, Athens saw almost no racial violence in the period 1889 to 1919, recording not a single lynching during the period called by historians "the nadir of racism," "the orgy of extreme negrophobic violence ," and "the crucible" of racial tension. Indeed, Athens became something of a haven for African Americans in the early twentieth century who fled other places in Georgia and South Carolina where negrophobic violence was intense and where black lives were especially vulnerable. By 1922, however, Athens had become a center for a vigorous local Klan chapter and the scene of terrible beatings, burnings, and other acts. Incidents between 1922 and 1925 were as numerous and grisly as anywhere in the region. The targets were as often white as black, and the angry white men of the 1920s in Clarke County appeared angriest Reviews259 about new roles for women, "unfair" competition from big business, new power for organized labor, and the appearance in town of eastern and central Europeans (especiallyJewish , Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox worshipers). In short, they were agitated about cosmopolitan trends affiliated with the state university. Pulling off more masks, MacLean demonstrates that the typical Klan member was not a desperately poor, redneck sharecropper secretly serving a clever patrician planter. Instead, the Clarke County klavern was made up of the petty bourgeoisie. The typical Klan member was a married, white male...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 258-260
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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