Saturday, May 22, 2010

They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti


Before the Civil War, slaves were considered property and treated as such. Displaced by those that bought them, families were ripped apart, lives were taken, and brutality was the norm.

After the Civil War, the southern way of life was decimated politically, economically, and most importantly, socially. White Southerners were filled with trepidation and even fear that their way of life, as well as their own lives and livlihood, would be taken over and controlled by the population of freed black. The tier of socio-economics had shifted radically and those in charge weren't ready to give that up.

The same can be said about the shifts in ideas as well...

Six men, whose claim was boredom after fighting for years as officers in the Civil War met one night and formed a club built on secrecy and personal friendship. Using a derivative of the word "Kuklos" (meaning circle), they built rules and rituals, using names like Cyclops, Dragon, Magi, Turks, Nighthawks and Licters.

It wouldn't take long for this group to form itself into a vigilante group, intent on keeping the power in the hands of those who've had it for so long. But it would be struggle. Black Americans were voting, becoming landowners, going to schools to become literate, and holding offices. The KKK would try what they knew would work - ripping families apart, taking lives, and using brutality.

Campbell Bartoletti brings the history of the KKK as well as the politics, ways of life, and first-hand experiences to live in her new non-fiction aimed at today's young adults. She handles the topic with care, and writes a foreword not only warning readers about the sensitivity of the issue, but also letting the reader know she is not trying to offend, but give accurate historical information about one of bleakest times in American history. Not only is the cover a stunning visual, but the pictures, newspaper posts, and how the nation viewed the South are just as powerful. It will make readers think...the highest form of praise for non-fiction. Highly recommended.

2 comments:

April Henry said...

My grandparents were actually members of the Klan in the early 1920s. My dad was so embarrassed when he told. I don't think he knew why they were members or what they did, although there was a time in American history when the Klan encompassed something like 15 percent of people who were eligible.

PS my word verification is arian, which is eerily similar to aryan....

naomibates said...

The book looks into that, as well as Bartoletti taking the reader into a KKK gathering in modern-day America - she attended an actual meeting. Talk about doing your research....