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Review: Historical Interpretations of the 1920's Klan: The Traditional View and the Populist Revision

Reviewed Works: The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History by David H. Bennett; The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Craig Wade
Review by: Leonard J. Moore
Journal of Social History
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter, 1990), pp. 341-357
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3787502
Page Count: 17
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Historical Interpretations of the 1920's Klan: The Traditional View and the Populist Revision
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Abstract

Historians have traditionally explained the massive Ku Klux Klan movement of the 1920's as an outburst of radical intolerance caused by the status anxiety of what were perceived to be "backward" segments of American society. Recent studies of state and local Klan organizations, together, have offered an entirely new interpretation. Based on close analysis of the social characteristics of Klansmen and the activities in which they engaged, the authors of these studies have concluded that the Klan represented the mainstream of white Protestant society, not its fringe elements; that interest in Prohibition enforcement, crime, political corruption, and a wide range of other community issues appeared to be the driving force behind the Klan's popularity; that conflict with local populations of ethnic minorities played a much smaller part in the Klan movement than other historians have assumed.

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