Chapter

Beginnings The Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and the Nation

David Cunningham

in Klansville, U.S.A.

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199752027
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979431 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199752027.003.0002
Beginnings The Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and the Nation

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This chapter describes the waves of Ku Klux Klan mobilization in the century leading up to the 1960s. Beginning with the KKK's modest origins in post-bellum Pulaski, Tennessee, the chapter outlines the organization's initial growth across the South, its subsequent decline in the face of federal legislation in the early 1870s, and its nostalgic 1915 rebirth under the auspices of leader William J. Simmons. By 1925, the KKK boasted between three and five million members nationwide, and exerted significant influence on state and national politics. Declining fortunes—sparked by large-scale economic and political shifts, infighting among Klan leaders, and financial difficulties—led to the “second wave” KKK's demise in the 1940s. Various KKK incarnations emerged soon after, many of which consolidated in 1961 under the United Klans of America (UKA), a new organization led by Alabama-based Robert Shelton. Alongside its documentation of this broad trajectory, the chapter provides a detailed account of post-war maneuverings among various self-styled KKK leaders in North Carolina, emphasizing how evident organizational continuities linked varied klan incarnations during abeyance periods and underscoring the important role played by police and state officials in enabling and preventing KKK mobilization.

Keywords: Ku Klux Klan origins; William Simmons; Robert Shelton; racism; abeyance; policing

Chapter.  11622 words. 

Subjects: Social Movements and Social Change

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