Best Wellers Pick
Every other month the staff of Weller Book Works nominates and then votes on books we deem worthy of extra attention, our Best Weller's selection. We discount these books to you by 20% during the months for which they're chosen because we believe in them.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
The Historian Timothy Egan has once again written a book that comes alive on it’s pages. This time it is not only an engaging read, but a timely one. In a day when so many are pushing their agenda, we could learn from this book how easy it is for a dogma to infiltrate our society.
During America’s Jazz Age- the Roaring Twenties, a time of “Great Gatsby” frivolity- a uniquely American hate group rose to power, threatening our way of life: the Ku Klux Klan. Not the old Confederacy variety, but a group of wide encompassing hatred, not only percecuting Black people but also immigrants, Jews, and Catholics alike. Egan focuses on the man who brought this to being, D.C. Stephenson.
D.C. Stephenson blew into town, pretty much unknown and poor, but realized his thirst for fame and wealth through the Ku Klux Klan. His plan was to go through the local churches, to drive in crowds and extract a fee. His Klan was oriented to the family and he hid their intentions by selling the public on Americanism. However, D.C. Stephenson propegated Absentence, yet he was a raving alcoholic; he preached virtue, but was a rapist. The Klan soon became accepted because they used certain social conditions to stir fear in the general populace. One was prohibition, which was seen as a crutch for the flood of immigrants coming into the country- Irish and Greek immigrants met and drank at their local pubs. Secondly, the liberation of women and the dawning of the flapper age. Thirdly, the great migration of Black people into the Northern states. The movie “Birth of a Nation” was seen by one out of every four Americans, and is called “the greatest racial propaganda film of all times” by Egan. Black people in the film were portrayed as savage simpletons and a threat to white women. When a white woman is being attacked, it is a hooded Klan member that comes to the rescue.
At it’s height, the Klan’s membership numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Local law enforcement agencies, political offices, and religious leaderships were infiltrated and soon the Klan became the law. One out of every third male in Indiana was a Klan member. Wanting the Klan to be family oriented, Stephenson created a Women’s Klan and even one geared for kids, known as the Ku Klux Kiddies. It is a dark period of History that Egan vividly portrays in his book.
Several people and organizations tried to stop the movement but were mainly unsuccessful. A newspaper editor was thrown in jail for attacking the Klan. When a plot to bomb the golden dome of Notre Dame, a Catholic school, was unsuccessful thousands of Klan members marched against the school, only to be meet by potato throwing students. The NAACP went against the Klan with a publication called “Tolerance,” exposing identities of Klan members on the last page, but it backfired, for when people saw who were Klan members it prompted them to join.
Book reviews should be geared toward making the reader want to buy and read the book, so I am not going to go into the spoiler aspect of the subtitle of the book, just let me say that the woman who stopped the Klan experienced terrible events, being raped by Stepheson and through the trial she would not stop. Madge Oberholtzer was a 28 year old teacher and a Suffragette. She cut her hair in a bob and attended speak easy, but when her job was on the chopping block, she went to Stephenson for help. Stephenson called the trial a” Witch Hunt”, sound familiar? Even when he was going to court for this case, happening during an election year, politicians who claimed Klan ideas were being elected in droves. It was her final testimony which convicted Stephenson and exposed the agenda of hatred which drove the Klan.
This book will draw you in and give you a glimpse of American History which has mostly be forgotten. It’s a dark work, but there is hope in the end, just as there is hope for us in our times. -- Frank Pester