The University of Arkansas Press announces the forthcoming publication of The Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Arkansas: How White Nationalism Came to Rule a State, by Kenneth C. Barnes.
The 1920s saw an explosion in the Klan’s power across the state, with at least 150 Arkansas chapters, and tens of thousands of members, at its zenith. In Little Rock, Arkansas’s Grand Dragon, James Comer, was among the inner circle of national Klan leaders. Comer’s wife, Robbie Gill Comer, became the head of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, headquartered in the state’s capital city. With these major, and untold lesser, inroads, the Little Rock organization could claim, at the time, to be the second capital – to Atlanta – for the nationwide Klan movement.
Klan members were often a community’s leading citizens – men in business, government, law, medicine, and religion, supported by wives and daughters. The 1920s saw a Klan that was much less secretive than the reconstruction- and civil rights-era versions that preceded and followed, with members gaining social footholds through shows of philanthropy and marching in parades by day, and assembling by night for initiations complete with cross burnings. They also issued forth with a torrent of angry, threatening rhetoric directed at those who did not conform to their vision.
Barnes details the Klan’s rise, and the internal divisions, scandals, and over-zealous attempts to dominate elections that were behind the Klan’s eventual fall from its zenith. The Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Arkansas documents these events as it evaluates the impact of the Klan’s success on the state’s development and the way the organization’s ideals have never fully disappeared.
The book is currently estimated to be 242 pages and includes 28 images. Publication is scheduled for March 2021.
Kenneth C. Barnes is professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of Who Killed John Clayton?: Political Violence and the Emergence of the New South and Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas: How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy, 1910–1960.