Ku Klux Klan expert to speak on organization’s impact in Eastern N.C.

An expert on the history of the Ku Klux Klan will share his insights about the organization’s activities and impact Oct. 16 at East Carolina University.

David Cunningham

David Cunningham

Dr. David Cunningham, associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, will present “The Contemporary Significance of the Klan and its Role in Communities in Eastern N.C., from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at a brown bag lunch event in Room 1006 in the Bate Building. He will also present “Klansville USA” from 4:30 – 6 p.m. in Sheppard Memorial Library Meeting Room A.

Cunningham is the author of “Klansville USA: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan,” the first substantial history of the civil rights-era KKK’s rise and fall. The book focuses on why the United Klans of America flourished in North Carolina and how its rise shines a light on the complex appeal of the Klan as a whole.

Drawing on a range of new archival sources and interviews with Klan members, including state and national leaders, the book uncovers the complex logic of KKK activity. Cunningham demonstrates that the Klan organized most successfully where whites perceived civil rights reforms to be a significant threat to their status, where mainstream outlets for segregationist resistance were lacking and where the policing of the Klan’s activities was lax.

By connecting the Klan to the more mainstream segregationist and anti-communist groups across the South, Cunningham provides insight into Southern conservatism, its resistance to civil rights, and the region’s subsequent shift to supporting the Republican Party.

Cunningham’s work is unique not only in its focus on the Klan in North Carolina during the Civil Rights-era but also because his focus is largely on the Klan as an organization, its day-to-day activities, and its role and impact within communities. He conducted research at ECU, drawing from archival records available through the ECU library and conducting interviews.

His work has received significant national attention from outlets including NPR and The Washington Post. Follow the links below to review a selection of articles about his work.

Cunningham’s appearance is part of the annual Social Issues lecture series sponsored by the ECU Department of Sociology and its Center for Diversity and Inequality Research. Previous speakers have included Dr. Shirley Laska, University of New Orleans, and Dr. David Williams, Harvard University.

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