Book Launch | The Second Coming of the KKK
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NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for the launch event of Linda Gordon’s new book The Second Coming of the KKK, featuring the author in conversation with Eric K. Ward and Caroline Kitchener.
A new Ku Klux Klan arose in the early 1920s, a less violent but equally poisonous descendant of the terrorist Klan begun in the 1870s South. This “second Klan” flourished above the Mason-Dixon Line by targeting Catholics, Jews and people of color as a threat to America’s destiny. It had major successes, with four-to-six-million members, including 1.5 million women, approximately 150 newspapers, and the support of many evangelical ministers. It elected eleven governors, forty-five members of Congress, and thousands to state and local positions. The 1924 immigration control law enacted the Klan’s racial hierarchy by setting very low quotas on immigrants of “undesirable” ethnicities.
As historian Linda Gordon demonstrates, the second Klan’s bigotry differed only in intensity from that of millions of other WASP Americans. Klan membership was not only respectable but even conferred prestige, offering an entrée into the “middle class” for many members. Never secret, this Klan recruited openly, using newspaper ads, ministers, traveling lecturers, and college fraternities. It staged extravagant mass “Americanism” pageants in a vain effort to compete with the attraction of the movies, a new form of entertainment designed, it charged, to undermine Americans’ morality.
The Klan’s melding of evangelical Protestantism with racial bigotry represents a continuing undercurrent in American history. Its recruitment, demagoguery, as well as the community solidarity it provided may offer insight into today’s mobilizations of angry bigotry.
Linda Gordon is a professor of history and a University Professor of the Humanities at New York University. Two of her recent books – The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (Harvard University Press, 1999) and the biography Dorothea Lange: A Life beyond Limits (W.W. Norton, 2009) – won the Bancroft Prize for best book on US history.
Caroline Kitchener is an associate editor at The Atlantic. She is the author of the book, Post Grad: Five Women and Their First Year Out of College, and her writing about issues of gender and sexuality has appeared in Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Vox, The Daily Beast, and The Guardian.
Eric K. Ward is a long time civil rights strategist, currently the incoming Executive Director at Western States Center. He has worked extensively in community, regional, and national organizing, as well as in philanthropy, for organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies. Throughout his career, Eric has designed campaigns that expose and counter hate groups and respond to bigoted violence.