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The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan

The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan: Right-Wing Movements and National Politics

Rory McVeigh
Volume: 32
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
    Book Description:

    Rory McVeigh provides a revealing analysis of the broad social agenda of 1920s-era KKK, showing that although the organization continued to promote white supremacy, it targeted immigrants and, particularly, Catholics, as well as African Americans, as dangers to American society. In sharp contrast to earlier studies of the KKK, McVeigh treats the Klan as it saw itself—as a national organization concerned with national issues.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6776-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. 1 The Klan as a National Movement
    (pp. 1-18)

    On July 4, 1923, thousands of men, women, and children flocked to Malfalfa Park on the outskirts of Kokomo, Indiana, for a day filled with food, games, entertainment, fireworks, and stirring patriotic speeches. No one knows for certain how many people were in attendance that day. Estimates made by various newspapers within the state range from 10,000 people to upward of 200,000. One thing is clear—the crowd was unusually large for a Fourth of July celebration. Those in attendance had fought their way through the worst traffic jam in Kokomo’s history.¹ They came from every corner of the state,...

  4. 2 The Rebirth of a Klan Nation, 1915–1924
    (pp. 19-31)

    Approximately forty years after the original Ku Klux Klan disbanded, a new Klan rose from the ashes in 1915. The founder of the second Ku Klux Klan, Colonel William Joseph Simmons, envisioned the Klan as the ultimate fraternal lodge. Simmons was the son of a rural Alabama physician. In his younger years he had spent time as a farmer, a circuit-riding preacher, and a lecturer in southern history at Lanier University.¹ He eventually threw himself into organizational work for several different fraternal organizations. Although a veteran of the Spanish American War, the title of “Colonel” was bestowed upon him by...

  5. 3 Power Devaluation
    (pp. 32-48)

    A sociologist (as I like to tell my daughter—a huge Nancy Drew fan) is very much like a supersleuth. The sociologist’s job entails solving mysteries when the solution to the mystery is not obvious to the casual observer who stumbles upon the scene of the crime. Like a good detective, the sociologist closely examines evidence and relies upon logic, both inductive and deductive, to think about how various strands of evidence can be pieced together to reveal a solution to an intriguing puzzle. Sociologists, like supersleuths, require a good theory to help them organize the empirical clues at their...

  6. 4 Responding to Economic Change: Redefining Markets along Cultural Lines
    (pp. 49-85)

    According to the power-devaluation model discussed in the previous chapter, macro-level shifts in the structure of social relations can result in economic, political, and status-based power devaluation for subsets of the population. This devaluation can provide incentives to support right-wing mobilization. It alters the way in which individuals understand their circumstances and creates new framing opportunities for those who wish to organize collective action. In this chapter I begin by identifying primary sources of economic power devaluation that affected many of those who were drawn to the Klan in the early 1920s, and I discuss how the Klan constructed interpretive...

  7. 5 National Politics and Mobilizing “100 Percent American” Voters
    (pp. 86-111)

    The vast majority of the Klan’s members and supporters were neither rich nor poor. Many recognized, however, that economic transitions taking place in the early 1900s were redistributing wealth in American society and they would have to organize to preserve advantages they previously enjoyed. Rationalization of manufacturing production and a severe agricultural recession directly affected small-scale manufacturers, skilled laborers, and farmers. These changes also disrupted exchange relationships for merchants and service workers whose fortunes were linked to the strength of the local economy and to the economic prosperity of their clients and customers. As the Klan’s recruiters fanned out across...

  8. 6 Fights over Schools and Booze
    (pp. 112-138)

    Few social movements in the history of the United States have been as successful as the Ku Klux Klan in recruiting members and supporters. With the leverage that comes from enlisting millions of dues-paying members, the movement forced political representatives, including those who had their sights set on the presidency, to take a stand in regard to the Ku Klux Klan and its agenda. In spite of the movement’s successes, scholars have been reluctant to give the Klan credit for its accomplishments. Rather than investigating how the movement was able to develop a program that appealed to so many people,...

  9. 7 How to Recruit a Klansman
    (pp. 139-166)

    According to the theory advanced in this book, structural changes that produce devaluation in economic, political, and status-based exchange markets provide incentives to participate in right-wing movements. Individuals who are experiencing power devaluation are likely to be receptive to a proposed course of action that aims to restore their power. This is especially true when power devaluation is not distributed randomly in the population but instead appears to be disproportionately affecting a clearly identifiable social group. In preceding chapters I have identified several ways in which structural changes related to immigration, transformations in manufacturing production, an agricultural depression, women’s suffrage,...

  10. 8 Klan Activism across the Country
    (pp. 167-179)

    Changes in the structure of American society in the early 1900s provided fertile recruiting ground for the Ku Klux Klan. Many native-born, white Protestants were experiencing power devaluation in economic, political, and status-based exchange relationships, and the Klan’s leaders constructed collective-action frames that struck a chord with those whom they wished to recruit. However, the Klan’s framing was not embraced by all Americans and was, in many cases, strongly rejected. As I argued earlier, the resonance of the Klan’s message should have depended, to a great extent, on geographic location. The Klan’s opposition to deskilling of manufacturing jobs, for example,...

  11. 9 The Klan’s Last Gasp: Campaigning to Keep a Catholic out of the White House, 1925–1928
    (pp. 180-195)

    By 1924 the Ku Klux Klan had emerged as a powerful social movement claiming the allegiance of millions of members and adherents. Its growth was in part fueled by the way in which recruiters opportunistically offered the Klan as a remedy for problems in local communities. However, the Klan quickly became a national social movement whose reach extended into all of the nation’s forty-eight states. How was the movement able to diffuse so broadly? The Klan articulated the grievances of many native-born, white Protestants, and those grievances were to a great extent rooted in national, rather than localized, conflicts. As...

  12. Conclusion: Right-Wing Movements, Yesterday and Today
    (pp. 196-202)

    Beginning in 1915, the Ku Klux Klan organized to advance the interests of native-born, white, Protestant Americans and to restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals the organization chose to exclude by virtue of their racial, ethnic, or religious identities. The Klan’s leaders and members expressed bigoted views while wearing sheets and hoods that concealed their identities. At times they intimidated or inflicted violence upon those they perceived to be enemies, and at all times they aimed to enforce conformity to behaviors and practices that they had determined to be “American.” Yet at the same time, as the quotation at...

  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 203-204)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 205-220)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 221-230)
  16. Index
    (pp. 231-244)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-248)