"The Ku Klux Klan was as dark as the night and as American as apple pie."
So reads the first sentence of this powerful new book--a book about our past and about our present.
In the 1920s the Klan found its best people as it deployed the worst of the nation’s intolerance to make bigotry respectable among those who considered themselves the most decent of citizens. White, native-born Protestants pulled on their robes and hoods with knowledge and pride. They marched with purpose and stood reverently as the burning crosses lit their pale faces. They knew that they were 100 percent Americans and others were not. They were not rubes. They were not manipulated. The Klan was not a fluke outburst to be dismissed as an unfortunate glitch in American history.
The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland drills to the core of American history. Running through that history is racial, ethnic, and religious conflict, which the Klan deployed with sophisticated and well-financed techniques to make bigotry respectable. Never was the Klan without enemies, however, as dissenters rose up to accuse them of overturning American ideals. Even in the darkest hours there were men and women of courage, citizens who sought liberty and justice for all.
Klan voices ring into the twenty-first century even if the tones have changed. More than most parts of our history, Klan-like beliefs connect our past and present with a venomous tenacity. The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland brings key issues to the present, extending from the revival of the Klan in the 1960s (in opposition to the civil rights movement) to the survival of Klan-like beliefs in the twenty-first century. With close detail and broad sweep, this book uncovers a history that remains uncomfortable and absolutely necessary for our own time.
Praise from advance readers:
“Unsparing in his exposure of Klan bigotry, Madison also attempts to understand ordinary Klan members who believed themselves to be good citizens and kind-hearted neighbors. That paradox has informed changing perceptions of American identity and privilege over the past century.”
–Thomas R. Pegram, Loyola University Maryland, author of One Hundred Percent America: The Rebirth and Decline of the Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s.
"In examining the motivations and methods of the Ku Klux Klan, Madison's lively, accessible and all-too-timely account, explores how previous generations have grappled with the age-old question 'who is an American?'; a question that continues to define and divide the nation today. Whether addressing politics, media, religion or basketball, this meticulously researched and expansive work brilliantly illustrates how, through the Klan, we can better understand American history today."
~Tom Rice, University of St Andrews, author of White Robes, Silver Screens: Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan.
"'Our democracy demands that we open all the pages in the book of history,' James Madison writes in this important study of the Klan in Indiana. In his reading of these pages, Madison counters many of the common myths surrounding the origin, power, and appeal of the Klan to Midwesterners in the 1920s. Madison's focus is on the robed men and women, neither naïve nor particularly duped by a charismatic leader, and on the political turmoil surrounding prohibition, suffrage, economics, and religion that caused them to join. The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland sheds much-needed light on the un-read pages of our past that continue to reverberate into our present."
~Susan Neville, Butler University, author of Indiana Winter
"James H. Madison, author of the classic A Lynching in the Heartland, gives a sweeping portrayal of the ugly role of The Ku Klux Klan in the Heartland and its blot on American history. He portrays its rise to power in Indiana in the 1920s, and its current iterations in 'graffiti of Nazi flags painted outside a Hamilton county synagogue in 2018' and in 'Klan recruiting notices that appeared across town' in Bloomington in 2019. This book burns."
~Dan Wakefield, author of New York in the Fifties, and Going All The Way.