The Klan eventually collapsed in large part due to state laws that made masks illegal and bad publicity about its non-legal activities.
At the same time, the Klan's heavy emphasis on patriotism and denouncement of crime gave them great popular clout. It was this message that played an important part in the skyrocketing membership in the early 1920s. During this time, the Klan was often seen as an institution that sought to hold together traditional American political ideals and morals against a tide of uncertainty and change, and thus acted as an outlet for the powerful patriotism that arose out of WWI. Although the Klan touted itself as a non-political movement, it played an important role in politics in the election of state officials in areas as divers as Texas, Oregon, and Maine.
In writing this book, Jackson's purpose was to describe the unique characteristics of the second of the three Klan movements in the United States. While he notes that the traditional image of the KKK as "hooded nightriders preserving white supremacy in the rural South," this image only applied to the first and third Klan movements. As Jackson notes, the second Klan movement, also the largest and most significant of Klan movements, had little to do with violence, the south, white supremacists, or even a rural environment. Instead, Jackson argues that the second Klan movement saw itself as a patriotic movement and a defender of Christian ideals. Ultimately, Jackson describes this movement as a powerful political force in the nation, and Jackson seeks to define the extent of the Klan's power in the North, and determine the nature and impact of the Klan in the North, as well.
This book is a valuable addition to the historiography of the KKK from 1915 to 1930. Jackson's look at the clan is clearly well-researched, and supported with a variety of facts and figures that led credence to his arguments. This abundance of detail adds a lot of substance to the relatively sketchy knowledge that we have about the second clan movement. As Jackson notes, "Important questions regarding the total size and distribution of membership, the nature of the Klan's appeal, the extent to which it shifted prejudices from one section of the country to another, and the socioeconomic status of the typical Klansmen remain unresolved." Jackson's book goes a long way in bringing together much of the conjecture about the second Klan movement, and making sense of many of the competing ideas.
One possible criticism of the book lies with the brief treatment that it gives the first and third Klan movements. In failing to give a more thorough look at the first and third movements, The Ku Klux Klan in the City fails to provide a real context for the rise and fall of the second Klan movement. Despite this failing, Jackson's book is nonetheless an important look at the influence of the second clan movement in American politics.
In conclusion, Jackson's The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930 is an interesting and valuable look into the influence of the second Klan movement. In describing the actions of the Klan during this time, Jackson reveals the surprisingly large political influence of the movement, and the importance of the success of the Klan in the urban environment and in the north. The end result is a portrait of the second Klan movement that successfully dispels many of the stereotypes that we have about the Klan in America.
Jackson, Kenneth T.…