Synopses & Reviews
In the 1920s, a revived Ku Klux Klan burst into prominence as a self-styled defender of American values, a magnet for white Protestant community formation, and a would-be force in state and national politics. But the hooded bubble burst at mid-decade, and the social movement that had attracted several million members and additional millions of sympathizers collapsed into insignificance. Since the 1990s, intensive community-based historical studies have reinterpreted the 1920s Klan. Rather than the violent, racist extremists of popular lore and current observation, 1920s Klansmen appear in these works as more mainstream figures. Sharing a restrictive American identity with most native-born white Protestants after World War I, hooded knights pursued fraternal fellowship, community activism, local reforms, and paid close attention to public education, law enforcement (especially Prohibition), and moral/sexual orthodoxy. No recent general history of the 1920s Klan movement reflects these new perspectives on the Klan. One Hundred Percent American incorporates them while also highlighting the racial and religious intolerance, violent outbursts, and political ambition that aroused widespread opposition to the Invisible Empire. Balanced and comprehensive, One Hundred Percent American explains the Klan's appeal, its limitations, and the reasons for its rapid decline in a society confronting the reality of cultural and religious pluralism.
"Pegram, a professor at Loyola University Maryland, presents a diligently researched and nuanced view of the Ku Klux Klan, yielding a picture of an organization that is far more complex than previously thought. In the post Civil War South, the Klan successfully blunted the efforts of Reconstruction, then faltered until its 1915 revival. Pegram shows how effective 'modern marketing and mass mobilization techniques' pushed it to national prominence during the 1920s, a decade when Klansmen amassed political power in Indiana, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Texas. 'White, Protestant values were the standard for true Americanism,' according to Klan tenets, and the organization turned its wrath against Catholics, Jews, Latinos, and Greek immigrants as well as African-Americans. The Klan dealt out shocking violence in the South, 'where sensationalized accounts of hooded vigilantes whipping, branding or applying hot tar and feathers' to their victims made the 'Invisible Empire' a fearsome presence. Pegram painstakingly compiles individual instances of the organization's contradictions and venalities, such as the collection of membership fees by paid recruiters that made it 'a highly successful pyramid scheme.' The author's scholarly academic prose and chapter structure precludes an accessible narrative structure, but as scrupulous history, Pegram has made a useful contribution in the study of this highly fragmented movement. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.