They Called Themselves the KKK

They Called Themselves the KKK
They Called Themselves
the KKK

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2010
hardcover: 978-0618440337
paperback: 978-0544225824
176 pages, ages 11 up

Behind the Book

Part 4: A Silent Majority

I had researched the Klan’s history and creed, and yet I was unprepared for what I saw and what I heard — from the opening speech to the pageantry of the closing cross-lighting ceremony.

Most of all, I was unprepared for the ordinariness of the people who attended the Congress. They played with their children. They talked about their gardens and their families. They sang the same hymns I grew up singing.

I also wasn’t prepared for the relatively small number in attendance. I don’t know the exact number, but I estimate that fewer than 100 people were there, even though the registration packet and other information promised huge crowds.

For the benefit of the short-wave radio listeners, the audience was told to clap as if there were hundreds and hundreds of people present.

On one hand, I find comfort in that small number and the fact that the today’s KKK wants to create the illusion that it is bigger than it really is. Isn’t that what fear-mongering is about? Smoke and mirrors?

On the other hand, one speech haunts me more than the others: “We are planting thousands of seeds among high school students,” said a Klanswoman. “We don’t need robes … a silent majority in America agrees with us.”

Perhaps W.E.B. Du Bois explained such fear best: “[T]hese human beings at heart are desperately afraid of something. Of what? Of many things, but usually of losing their jobs, being declassed, degraded, or actually disgraced; of losing their hopes, their savings, their plans for their children; of the actual pangs of hunger, of dirt, of crime.”

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