The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan

  • Winner, Outstanding Book Award, American Sociological Association Peace, War, and Social Conflict Section
  • Finalist, C. Wright Mills Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems 
  • Honorable Mention, Charles Tilly Award for Best Book, ASA Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section 
  • Featured sessions, 2013 Southern Sociological Society, 2014 Eastern Sociological Society, and 2015 American Sociological Association Annual Meetings

“Cunningham’s nuanced study shows us why understanding the past is still relevant for today. In mapping the legacies of organized racial extremism in the midst of perceived scarcity of resources, Cunningham offers a road map for countering the rise of hate groups today.”

Susan M. Glisson, Executive Director, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

From the publisher: 

In the 1960s, on the heels of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and in the midst of the growing Civil Rights Movement, Ku Klux Klan activity boomed, reaching an intensity not seen since the 1920s, when the KKK boasted over 4 million members. Most surprisingly, the state with the largest Klan membership-more than the rest of the South combined-was North Carolina, a supposed bastion of southern-style progressivism. 
Klansville, U.S.A. is the first substantial history of the civil rights-era KKK’s astounding rise and fall, focusing on the under-explored case of the United Klans of America (UKA) in North Carolina. Why the UKA flourished in the Tar Heel state presents a fascinating puzzle and a window into the complex appeal of the Klan as a whole. Drawing on a range of new archival sources and interviews with Klan members, including state and national leaders, the book uncovers the complex logic of KKK activity. David Cunningham demonstrates that the Klan organized most successfully where whites perceived civil rights reforms to be a significant threat to their status, where mainstream outlets for segregationist resistance were lacking, and where the policing of the Klan’s activities was lax. Moreover, by connecting the Klan to the more mainstream segregationist and anti-communist groups across the South, Cunningham provides valuable insight into southern conservatism, its resistance to civil rights, and the region’s subsequent dramatic shift to the Republican Party.
Klansville, U.S.A. illuminates a period of Klan history that has been largely ignored, shedding new light on organized racism and on how political extremism can intersect with mainstream institutions and ideals.

“Continuously interesting, full of jolting details…”

The New York Times

The book has been adapted into a PBS American Experience documentary film, and featured in a variety of media: