Ten Dollars to Hate: The Texas Man Who Fought the Klan by Patricia Bernstein
Historians familiar with Texas's 1920s Ku Klux Klan will likely discover new insights into the subject in Patricia Bernstein's recent monograph. Her second book to explore twentieth-century race relations, Ten Dollars to Hate: The Texas Man Who Fought the Klan focuses on Dan Moody and his successful 1923 prosecution of Klan thuggery in Williamson County, Texas. Moody, elected governor in 1926 on the strength of his sensational courtroom convictions, is a compelling figure in Texas political history. Bernstein uses him artfully to recount the story of the second incarnation of the Klan, forcing the reader to hear echoes of Klan-bred intolerance manifested in today's heated political rhetoric.
Bernstein's central argument is that Moody's success as district attorney in obtaining and sustaining convictions related to the brutal flogging of a white couple suspected of adultery by Williamson County Klansmen was the first such legal victory against the Klan in the nation and sparked [End Page 347] its decline in Texas, initiating a reversal of its astonishing rise to political power. Perhaps one of the signal achievements of the book is its vivification of courtroom records, allowing them to communicate in a visceral manner the questions of law and order being argued by Moody and his courtroom adversaries.
Yet, the book's scope is well beyond Moody's juridical successes achieved in the still extant marble confines of Georgetown's county courthouse. The author begins by broadly reviewing the KKK's place in American history. Thereafter the book's lens slowly narrows its focus from the "postwar tumult" (ix) that gave rise to the Klan in multiple regions, to the rise of the Klan in Texas, thence to its footprint at the municipal level in Dallas and Houston, and finally arriving at the Klan's escapades in Wier, Texas, that led to Moody's courtroom triumph. Though Texas historians may know much of the story, they are sure to enjoy Bernstein's storytelling style, the wit of which draws an occasional chuckle. The book's scope is evidence of her determination to educate today's readers about dark times in American history that can easily resurrect themselves. While Dan Moody's story is fascinating, the milieu from which it arose is frightening. Bernstein's purposes in detailing the story and its context are in part didactic, to celebrate Moody as a hero and to offer readers evidence from the past as a tool to better assess the present. She accomplishes this well.
Though Ten Dollars to Hate is Texas-centric, its consideration of the 1920s Klan at the national level makes it a source to compete with some of the best in the historiography of the subject. Bernstein draws on all of them, but rises to a new level of historical narration and analysis in the arena on the back of what makes a good historian great: effective research. She draws from dozens of period newspapers, suggesting historians focus too heavily on the Dallas Morning News as the anti-Klan newspaper of Texas and have ignored the equally anti-Klan Houston Chronicle as a source for historical analysis. Moreover, Bernstein's heavy lifting in the archives netted a variety of material published during the Klan's rise as well as overlooked dissertations and theses that help her put flesh on the bones of those she is reanimating.
Ten Dollars to Hate ends with two excellent epilogues; the first is Moody's "aftermath" and the second is that of the Klan. A well-organized bibliography closes out the book, which should delight any scholar in search of resources. Bernstein's offering is a must-read for those interested in Texas history and for those seeking to better understand the tenor of our own times. [End Page 348]