They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

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In this historical piece littered with photographs, quotes, and documents, Bartoletti gives readers an in-depth view of the beginnings of the Klu Klux Klan. Highlighting the savagery of the Civil War and the subsequent utter crippling of the South during Reconstruction, the author demonstrates that the K.K.K originated as a response to the end of an established way of life. Though slaves were freed by the Civil War, the South was in no way prepared to treat black Americans as equals, and the North had not put measures in place to protect the nation’s newly emancipated citizens. Packed with viewpoints of white supremacists, former slaves, political leaders, and civil rights activists, Bartoletti’s work shows readers that the fight for Civil Rights began long before the 1960’s movement, and that true freedom is not easily won.

I found this book really interesting. I was mostly familiar with the K.K.K. active during the Civil Rights Movement, and did not know that the group actually formed just a few years after the Civil War. Though they did not start out as a particularly violent group, the Klan soon transformed into one and became nearly uncontrollable during their most active years. Another interesting aspect to this book was the light it shed on the lives of black Americans after the Civil War. Far from being “free” these new citizens lived in the poverty and hatred of the South, unable to find work to support their families. Though freeing the slaves was absolutely the right thing to do, the government didn’t give much thought to what their lives would be like after the war. I love the differing perspectives this book gives on this era in history, and there are a ton of pictures to illustrate the story. If you need a book for a history project (or you just love history), give this one a shot!

Rating: 4/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Nominee, 2011

*Booklist Starred Review

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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