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The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  585 ratings  ·  104 reviews
A new Ku Klux Klan arose in the early 1920s, a less violent but equally virulent descendant of the relatively small, terrorist Klan of the 1870s. Unknown to most Americans today, this "second Klan" largely flourished above the Mason-Dixon Line—its army of four-to-six-million members spanning the continent from New Jersey to Oregon, its ideology of intolerance shaping the ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by Liveright
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Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I had hoped that by reading this book, I would gain somewhat of an understanding to why people are drawn to such virulent groups as the KKK. Whilst this didn't happen (perhaps there is no understanding to be found), I did learn many things about the "Second Coming" of the KKK. This occurred not in recent years but in the 1920s, had millions of members (WASPS of course!), and was much more acceptable than it is today. Seen as fashionable, respectable, and exciting, recruiters had little trouble ...more
Gordon gives a solid introductory look at the history of the KKK 2.0, which took American society by storm in the 1910s and 1920s. I knew it became an insanely popular outfit in the wake of the release of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, but I didn't realize just how pervasive it was and, most surprisingly, how fast it fell. (Turns out when your secret society figureheads commit rape and murder amongst their peers and are, in general, corrupt money-fleecing scam artists, it gets your a bad ...more
Mary Kay
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autumn-17, netgalley
Wow. What can I say? History repeats itself. I felt absolutely chilled in recognizing Trump's campaign in parts of this book, down to the word in some cases. This is the story of the KKK in the 1920s, told in a smart, well-researched and intelligent -- yet accessible -- way. I am not a historian, so many of the facts were completely eye-opening and fascinating to me. For example, did you know that the KKK was, in the 20s, a fairly socially acceptable membership organization on par with the ...more
Christopher Saunders
This analysis of the Second Ku Klux Klan is a decidedly mixed bag. Rather than a narrative history of the Klan's meteoric rise and fall, Gordon stresses its religious, political and cultural dimensions which made it successful, and which continue to animate American politics today. The book is often insightful in probing the origins and disturbing continuities of right wing politics: the Klan mustered backlash against Progressivism, evangelical Christianity, populist anger against elites, ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Second Coming of the KKK is an excellent account of the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan during the 1920s, examined mostly in it's historical context but with some comparison to modern right-wing movements today. Mostly, the author let's the eerie similarities between the two speak for themselves. This was an a very interesting and informative book, and it is one that I would recommend.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The KKK of the 1920s was disturbingly mainstream, disturbingly widespread, and offers uncomfortable parallels to our current political climate. The Klan of the twenties was protean, opportunistic, and decentralized, adapting smoothly to local mores and prejudices and always taking on an air of respectability (and intimidation). The most surprising and interesting aspect of the book was an extensive treatment of the role of women in the movement and the peculiar strain of feminism that grew up in ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-stuff
This is awfully good. The focus on the KKK in the north is interesting and sheds light on less explored territory, and the constant, ringing parallels to today's political scene are instructive, unsurprising, and horrifying. This study is relevant at all times, but it's particularly so particularly right now.

Thanks to NetGalley and W.W. Norton and Co for the ARC.
Terry Earley
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow, I am glad I read this well researched book. This is a part of American history you will not learn in school. Fear and hate will always be with us, and there are those today who want to influence Americans with the same misguided strategy.

A very timely lesson from recent history.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding book written about the second coming if the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The second form of the KKK was more of a northern phenomena as a reaction to increasing numbers of immigrants and the great migration of African Americans. The Midwest was a large area for KKK organizations. Indiana with its large white Protestant population has the largest group. Many members were solidly middle class and considered respectable members of society. The KKK organized social ...more
Mark Nenadov
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first Klu Klux Klan only lasted about 6 years, and left behind a trail of fire and blood. The second Klan reemerged 44 years later in 1915 with quite a bit of success. It has been described as a "less violent but equally virulent" organization and also as a "giant, perverse pyramid scheme. It is very true that the Klan was a despicably racist and bigoted group and ideologically, morally, and theologically bankrupt. That said, it is a myth to suppose that the second Klan was an extremely ...more
Bradley Metlin
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Second Coming of the KKK is packed full of information about the second iteration of the KKK. Yet, Linda Gordon never allows this information come to life in an engaging way. While I understand that Gordon wanted to be relatively objective in her presentation, the interestingness of the subject matter seems to have been sanded down to its bare boned facts.

Descriptions of Klan ceremonies don’t give you a sense of what they were like, historical events don’t transport you to that time
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read

Seemed like appropriate reading for the times. I think the most interesting takeaway was the idea that the second wave of the KKK was a force that helped bring together members of the middle and working classes, and helped some define themselves as such. That, and I wished the chapter on women and the KKK was longer. That and this, which we all need to remind ourselves of: "Readers who have not already done so must rid themselves of notions of that women's politics are always kinder, gentler,
Gayle Francis Moffet
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Klan of the 1920s was a political power house that did most of its work not through violent action, but through boycotts of "undesirable" businesses and by aligning themselves with many of the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitism beliefs of the time. Gordon does a good job breaking down all the ways the 1920s Klan functioned and looks specifically at how their tactics worked through a variety of lenses.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
If I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say it. So I won't. But I do give props to the author for giving a relatively honest view of the KKK in the 1920s. Fair solid book, would not read again but would suggest to someone who is looking for a historical context to the KKK and its history.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a solid work of history-- very well-researched, very readable, totally mind-boggling. I wished, a bit, that Gordon had picked a single story about this era to really focus on (there are many many threads running in many different directions), but the picture she paints in aggregate is pretty startling-- and frighteningly relevant-- all the same.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I’d say 3.5 out of 5. Gordon’s history is strong and her prose incredibly clear and compelling. My lower rating rests more in the sense that I am not quite accustomed to reading a general history vs. an academic history. Plus my dissertation overlapped with the era and topics that she touched on, so what she hit on didn’t feel particularly revelatory. In fact because of my overfamiliarity and her general approach, it felt somewhat shallow. I wanted her to push more to assert a greater argument. ...more
Rob Barry
Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting - especially in the similarity in methods used by the KKK of the 1920s — and today’s evangelicalism. Specifically:

—Part of the Klan’s genius lay in enabling men to imagine themselves warriors even as they behaved peaceably.

—Klanspeople had to visualize themselves as soldiers defending against threats, and in doing so created belief in those threats.

—Among The Klan’s emotional appeals, gendered messages to men had particular power. Manliness was strength, womenliness weakness.

E. Nicholas
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
A decent overview of the rise (and eventual fall) of the Ku Klux Klan during the first half of the 20th century. I would've liked a more comprehensive analysis of how the Klan infiltrated (and in many cases, controlled) local and national politics, especially during the 1920s; but Gordon's book was still very much worth the read, especially in the Age of Trump, as white nationalism is tragically enjoying a sudden resurgence. Also, I found the book particularly interesting in detailing the role ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an important book that will interest anybody who studies American history. Gordon offers original research and insightful analysis of the "Second Wave" of the Klan. I particularly recommend this book to Dinesh D'Souza.

The "Second Wave" of the Klan can be distinguished from the "First" and "Third" waves. The first was born during Reconstruction and targeted Freedmen and Republicans (i.e., "carpetbaggers"). This wave didn't last very long because national Republicans quickly withdrew their
Bill Lucey
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
When you think of the history of the Ku Klux Klan, many assume they were mostly from the south, ill-educated, more or less fringe groups, who held opinions far removed from mainstream America.

Boy was I wrong.

Historian Linda Gordon provides a chilling history of the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.

Many might be surprised to learn the Klan developed a strong political machine in the North. Oregon, for example, today, one of the most liberal states in America, was a major stronghold
Nov 08, 2019 is currently reading it
This book is the truth I have been waiting for since I was 11 years old. It is the book I thought I had to write myself, the truth I thought only I knew; the truth whispered in back rooms of Elks lodges in little towns like Linton Indiana and giant halls of Masonic institutions like The Scottish Rite Cathedral, the truth whispered and feared, examined, clarified and illuminated by my parents in the union of their marriage they explored the social construction of who they were, where they came ...more
Bill Newell
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
If, like me, you’ve been searching for an explanation for why Trump was elected President (other than possible Russian hacking of voting machines), look no further than the eminent social historian Linda Gordon’s The Second Coming of the KKK: The Klu Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition (W.W. Norton & Co, 2017).
There’s lots of fascinating detail in the interior of the book: Who knew that Oregon was one of the most racist states in the 1920s? Or that several Presidents
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
People wanted to believe racism had died out, that something like the KKK belonged to a time and place that no longer existed or at least was very from today vs. "back then." Perhaps a lack of understanding of history, of the cyclical nature of these things, of seeing the signs of what might come, etc. led to the second coming of the KKK.

It's hard not to see the parallels to this and what is happening in current events. Getting "their people" elected to office." Promoting "American" values.
Kathleen (itpdx)
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I grew up in Portland OR attending Catholic schools taught by the Holy Names Sisters. My high school had a photo of the KKK in full regalia parading down the street in front of the school. I was amazed. The Klan in Portland? The only Klan I knew about was a secretive organization in the south that lynched and intimidated African-Americans. I learned then that the Klan had been big in Oregon, where they were actively anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic. Later I learned that they had been behind a ...more
Harvey Smith
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
“Brandolini's law, developed in the context of twenty-first century social media, is equally applicable to 1920s Klan-speak: 'The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude greater than that needed to produce it.”

It took me a long time to get through this book and that's not a slight on the book, but because I had to check it out from the library twice and wasn't able to renew right away when the first one ran out.

This was a very interesting book with a ton of strange
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This was at least 50 pages longer than it needed to be. Which is sad, because it's only 209 pages without the footnotes. (a quarter of this book was unnecessary). Good history, but immensely repetitive, so this would probably have done better if it were a monograph rather than a novel-esque history of the Second KKK.

Still, I learned a lot of things I didn't know, and it served as a good introduction to the 1920s in the US. The parallels Gordon offers to the modern era is interesting, since the
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating historical information and insight into an era of US history that has long been ignored. The beliefs of so many US citizens, the astounding rise of membership of the KKK in the 1920s, their values and beliefs, and the methods that they used to gain strength and prominence are even more scary when compared to the numerous similarities of the trump campaign and administration. Like the KKK used almost 100 years ago, trump gained power and support by the pervasive use of lies and ...more
Reza Amiri Praramadhan
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-ebooks
Unlike today, the Ku Klux Klan was actually a respectable organization which held a considerable social, economic and political power in the 1920s. In absence of mass entertainment like radio and television, wearing white robes, holding fancy titles and talking with its own terminology seemed to be attractive ways to fend off boredom (and also a lucrative business). Fighting for “100% Americanism”, the KKK fought against Negroes, Jews, Catholics, and Alcoholism. This book reveals some of ...more
Brett Van Gaasbeek
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This title was tough to get through for two main reasons. One, Gordon’s research is so thorough about the intricacies of the organization that it is a heavy read for only a 240 page book. Two, some of the information is so alarming in how simple the Klan sold their version of nativism and racism to people that you tend to want to reread the sections so you don’t feel like you missed some detail that would at least put your conscience at ease. While the title did drag at times due to these, the ...more
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Linda Gordon is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of numerous books and won the Bancroft Prize for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. She lives in New York. "
“Brandolini's law, developed in the context of twenty-first social media, is equally applicable to 1920s Klan-speak: 'The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude greater than that needed to produce it.” 2 likes
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