Backfire: How the Ku Klux Klan Helped the Civil Rights Movement

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9780742523104: Backfire: How the Ku Klux Klan Helped the Civil Rights Movement
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David Chalmers, the leading historian of the Ku Klux Klan, brings the story of America's oldest terrorist society up to date. Chalmers skillfully shows how Klan violence actually aided the civil rights movement of the 1960s and revolutionized the role of the national government in the protection of civil rights. He follows the forty-year struggle to punish Klan murderers through the courts of Alabama, Georgia, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and how Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center finally found a way to bring the Klan down.

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About the Author:

David Chalmers is the author of And the Crooked Places Made Straight: The Struggle for Social Change in the 1960s and Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan. He went to jail with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, and was an expert witness in Federal Court in Chattanooga, and a consultant to President Johnson's National Violence Commission. He is Distinguished Service Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Florida.

Review:

The country's foremost authority on the Ku Klux Klan, David Chalmers has written a compelling, highly readable account of the disturbing persistence of racism and violence over nearly a century. At a time of concern over homeland security incited by the assaults of September 11, Backfire commands our attention. (William E. Leuchtenburg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of The Supreme Court Reborn)

David Chalmers, the authoritative historian of the Ku Klux Klan, has written another invaluable account of America's oldest terrorist group. Backfire tells the remarkable story of how the Klan's violence helped ensure the Civil Rights movement's tectonic legal victories of the 1960s, describing these events within a penetrating survey of the American radical Right of the twentieth century. This book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the extreme-Right movements that have shaped the social fabric of this country. (Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center)

This sobering and provocative investigation is more than a history of the civil rights movement. . . . Here [Chalmers] describes how Klan cells merged with right-wing skinhead, survivalist, and militia groups during the 1980s and 1990s. The author's account of the Klan's always-lurking potential is a chilling reminder that 'there will always be a Klan as long as a would-be entrepreneur will gather a group of friends to drink beer, talk about guns and race, and 'doin somethin' about it.'' (Foreword Reviews)

Highly recommended. All levels and collections. (CHOICE)

Backfire is of much interest, especially in showing the links between the history of the Klan and the differently insidious newer groups, and it helps make Chalmers' point that race remains the basic subtext in American society and politics. . . . [It] deserves a wide readership. (Joseph J. Wydeven, Bellevue University)

A sobering account of racial terrorism in the United States. Chalmers's history of the Ku Klux Klan is a 'must-read' for anyone who wants to understand contemporary race relations. (Kathleen M. Blee, University of Pittsburgh; author of Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement)

With an international 'war on terror' ongoing, Chalmers reminds readers that one of the oldest living terrorist societies, founded in 1866, still exists, recruits, and works in the 21st-century United States. The author brings the long and persistent history of Klan violence and the impact it still has on contemporary race relations into sharp focus. (American History)

This book provides a useful introduction to the major clashes with segregationist forces that defined the trajectory of the civil rights movement and a clear assessment of the enduring significance of these events. . . . There is much reason to recommend Backfire. (Journal of American History)

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Chalmers, David
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