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Beyond the Book

400 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, 4 figs, notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-1-4696-2542-3
Published: January 2016


The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction

By Elaine Frantz Parsons

Awards & Distinctions

2016 Willie Lee Rose Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians

The first comprehensive examination of the nineteenth-century Ku Klux Klan since the 1970s, Ku-Klux pinpoints the group's rise with startling acuity. Historians have traced the origins of the Klan to Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866, but the details behind the group's emergence have long remained shadowy. By parsing the earliest descriptions of the Klan, Elaine Frantz Parsons reveals that it was only as reports of the Tennessee Klan's mysterious and menacing activities began circulating in northern newspapers that whites enthusiastically formed their own Klan groups throughout the South. The spread of the Klan was thus intimately connected with the politics and mass media of the North.

Shedding new light on the ideas that motivated the Klan, Parsons explores Klansmen's appropriation of images and language from northern urban forms such as minstrelsy, burlesque, and business culture. While the Klan sought to retain the prewar racial order, the figure of the Ku-Klux became a joint creation of northern popular cultural entrepreneurs and southern whites seeking, perversely and violently, to modernize the South. Innovative and packed with fresh insight, Parsons' book offers the definitive account of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction.

About the Author

Elaine Frantz Parsons is associate professor of history at Duquesne University.


"Extraordinarily well-researched. . . .interesting and illuminating."
--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A superb, important new interpretation of the history of the first Ku Klux Klan. . . . Highly recommended for those interested in the history of the South, Reconstruction, and American racial violence.”
--North Carolina Historical Review

“Essential reading for scholars focusing on the Civil War, Reconstruction, or racist violence in America.”
--H-Net Reviews

"This is the first book to really apply cultural history to the questions that historians of Reconstruction have been asking for a long time. This is a great, groundbreaking work that will clearly be a major milestone in the study of Reconstruction and the history of the Klan."
--Bruce Baker, Newcastle University

"Exciting, impeccably researched, and much-needed, Parsons' book goes far beyond providing a social or political history of the organization, and examines the Klan as a complex, cultural phenomenon that carried social and political force through the cultural meanings that it conveyed and that were imposed upon it."
--Amy Wood, Illinois State University

© 2016 The University of North Carolina Press
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