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David Cunningham became interested in the Ku Klux Klan while conducting research for his dissertation at the University of North Carolina. He originally focused on how the FBI dealt with the Civil Rights Movement, but his research led to a surprising discovery: North Carolina, which has a reputation as the most progressive Southern state, also had the highest percentage of Klan members in the s. Cunningham is professor and chair of sociology at Brandeis University. In , he published Klansville, U. They said two things.
One, they did not support the Civil Rights Act.
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But the second thing was that they would abide by it anyway, because they would follow the law. And when you combine that with an environment where there is a significant amount of competition in the labor force, there was racial anxiety around what the Civil Rights Act would do. So you have a fairly large White constituency that is concerned about this.
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So the Klan has a bigger niche that they can fill. The electoral event that almost everyone pointed me to was a U.
Graham was this universally beloved figure, but he was also very progressive. And he had the backing of many of the prominent political elites in North Carolina.
But he had won handily. Willis got barely enough support to force a runoff and almost concedes, because he thinks he has no chance. In the runoff election, Smith baits Graham and centers his campaign on the idea that if you elect Graham, that mean Blacks will be working next to your wife at the factory, and so forth. There was this very propagandistic campaign. And he beats Graham.
And then you see candidates for the next generation or two, up to the Civil Rights Act, reacting to that election in various ways.
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So Terry Sanford, who became governor of North Carolina in the early s and saw himself as a great southern progressive, said that when he watched the Graham loss, he immediately started taking notes. You see that balancing act with almost all of the less conservative politicians. So, even as far to the Left as you could possibly get in North Carolina on the political spectrum, none of those people would overtly say that they supported the Civil Rights Act. Plot Keywords. Parents Guide.
David Cunningham (sociologist)
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