Comments: 451 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

drunkpublisher323 karma

What myth about the KKK do you wish people would stop spreading?

fharcourt837 karma

That it was somehow a deviation from American norms. That we can blame lynchings solely on groups like the Klan and not on the wide cross-section of white society that participated in and/or endorsed racial violence.

LazyFigure132 karma

At what point in history did they become at odds with American society? Is that when they started wearing hoods or did the hoods not have anything to do with hiding their identity?

fharcourt239 karma

The masks grow out of the theatricality of the Reconstruction-era Klan tactics to sow terror. Klans are criticized in the 1920s for wearing masks - either as cowards for not being willing to show their face, or for creating cover for criminals to act under cover of Klan activity. But in many regions, Klansmen and women paraded without masks.

As to when they became "at odds" with society - it depends on how we're defining society. Arguably when Ulysses S. Grant enforces the Ku Klux Klan Acts in the early 1870s. But then the myth of Reconstruction is created, and the Klan's controversy is sanitized, allowing for a resurgence after World War I.

BGummyBear246 karma

Where did the ranks/titles in the KKK originally come from? For example, when and why did the head of the KKK get called the "Grand Wizard"?

fharcourt324 karma

They grow out of the theatricality of Reconstruction-era Klans, and are of a piece with the ghostly or demonic masks the nightriders wore. They were codified by the founder of the second Klan in 1915, William Joseph Simmons, in his handbook for the Klan, the "Kloran."

Rhoam245 karma

Was it actually called the Kloran?

fharcourt263 karma


the_schmeez134 karma

1 serious question and 2 candid ones:

  1. The town that I live in gets a lot of flack because a "Grand Dragon" lived here from the time that he retired until he died. People still associate us with him and call us racist for it. What can we do to reduce the stigma left?

  2. What hobbies do you have when not doing your research and lectures?

  3. Favorite type of pizza including crust choice?

fharcourt241 karma

  1. There's a lot of great racial healing/transformation projects at work right now that are making great strides with these kinds of issues. Take a look at the Kellogg Foundation's program, for example - https://www.wkkf.org/what-we-do/racial-equity/truth-racial-healing-transformation

  2. Time exists outside of research, teaching, and sleep?

  3. Good quality margherita, thin and crispy crust.

Nooraana126 karma

How were members of the KKK socially? Did they seem like normal people or were they known to be avoided?

fharcourt265 karma

Depends on where in the country, and when. If you're in Indiana in 1924, then Klan meetings are openly advertised in the newspaper and everyone* is welcome to attend.

  • Meaning white Gentile Protestant native-born Americans

100FootWallOfFog63 karma

Were Catholics not accepted by the klan?

fharcourt159 karma

In the Reconstruction period, and by the 1940s, yes - in fact, there was a Catholic head of the Klan. In the 1920s, Catholics were seen by the Klan as owing their primary allegiance to the Pope and not to America, and therefore "un-American." This was an idea heavily intertwined with nativism targeting large numbers of new Catholic immigrants from southern Europe.

OrionPax_103 karma

Were any well-known people or people in positions of power ever outed as members of the KKK?

fharcourt173 karma

Yes, many. In Colorado alone, for example, the governor was a Klansman and the mayor of Denver was a Klansman. My current project revolves around understanding just how much influence the Klan exerted over members of the US Congress in the 1920s - some of whom were members, others who were simply open to Klan lobbying.

madmaxpower9102 karma

should we take down the Confederate statues? How bout statues of anyone who owned slaves are participated in KKK activities?

fharcourt323 karma

A significant number of statues to the Confederate cause were erected in the early 20th century as part of the same process of sanitization of public memory that allowed for the resurgence of the Klan in the post-WWI era. It is no coincidence that the Robert E. Lee statue at the heart of the Charlottesville protests was erected in 1924, the same year that the Ku Klux Klan's national membership peaked.

Jeffery_G76 karma

Was this your dissertation? If so, from which institution? Interesting field.

fharcourt109 karma

To some extent - the book grew out of my dissertation work at George Washington University.

Historian106676 karma

Based on your understanding of Klan history, what is the most effective way to fight them? I.E. reduce their membership and power?

fharcourt165 karma

Multipronged - primarily public education. But also that press coverage doesn't simply report on Klan (or affiliated groups) actions, but embeds critical comment on the group's ideas in that reporting. The Klan doesn't shrivel in the light of publicity, it shrivels in making membership intellectually, culturally, and socially toxic.

deputypresident59 karma

Non-American here.

I am aware of the KKK which are occasionally represented in pop culture (I remember the movie Mississippi Burning and thought how evil they were).

Has there been at any point in time a non-white member, or even a non-white honorary member?

fharcourt97 karma

The Klan in the 1920s actually set up an affiliate organization for non-white members. It's unclear if anyone ever actually joined it though.

mistertrev1458 karma

If there is something you’d like to say to the current generation of klan members, what would it be?

fharcourt303 karma

You're wearing your costumes wrong. The cross over the breast should be an "x" not a "+". If you're going to be racists, at least get your costuming right.

And if you're wrong about as simple a thing as your robes, just think what else you might be wrong about...

Iamthenewme57 karma

I'm not American so forgive my ignorance, but did the KKK actually use those ghostly costumes regularly, in practice? Where did the costume come from? Were there different varieties on that same theme, within KKK?

fharcourt107 karma

The Reconstruction-era Klan costumes look much different than the costumes we normally associate with the Klan, which are adopted in the 1920s. Those costumes are largely based on representations of the Klan in the D.W. Griffith film, "Birth of a Nation." And members in the 1920s did regularly wear those costumes - it was official Klan policy (and you had to buy your robes from the official Klan manufacturer, making a nice profit for the organization).

the_drew37 karma

Freakonomics claimed (and i'm paraphrasing somewhat) that removing the mask of secrecy (and therefore, showing how silly the klans internal rituals and customs were) caused interest in being a klansman to erode.

Charlottesville suggested klan interest was far from eroded. So are you familiar with their article? And what, in your opinion, would cause a permanent lack of interest in the klan?

fharcourt74 karma

That Freakonomics piece is a bad misreading of history - the conclusion to the book is largely about why the assumption that the light of publicity will cause the Klan to disappear is a dangerous idea. I wrote a piece about this question recently - http://www.aaihs.org/the-black-press-and-the-ku-klux-klan/

sheef2734 karma

Has the KKK been involved in any attacks that have made a direct political impact? Like bumping off someone that had different views or something similar?

fharcourt67 karma

The Reconstruction-era Klans certainly threatened (and used) violence against black voters.

madmaxpower913 karma

do you believe in ghosts?

fharcourt65 karma

I believe the legacy of the Klan haunts us.

Koof99-21 karma

Was the Klan founded by liberals or conservatives?

fharcourt40 karma

By political opportunists.