Civil Liberties

Return of the Klan Panic


The Anti-Defamation League, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Associated Press have been hyping an alleged revival of the Ku Klux Klan. David Garrow, author of the Pulitzer-winning Martin Luther King biography Bearing the Cross, is skeptical:

The ADL document identifies several Klan groups as especially active in 2005-06. One is the Brotherhood of Klans, based in Henderson, Tenn., which sponsored a number of public events during that period—but whose leader, Dale Fox, died of a heart attack in November.

Another is the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Sharpsburg, Md., which mustered a turnout of only about 30 Klansmen at the Civil War battlefield near Gettysburg, Pa., in September. World Knights leader Gordon Young "used the event to denounce multiracial marriage and immigration," the ADL reports. Two months later, however, the World Knights unexpectedly disbanded, and in January, Young was arrested on multiple felony charges of sexual abuse of a minor. He remains in jail on $350,000 bond and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted….

[T]he turnout of a mere 20 KKKers at an anti-immigration rally organized by the Empire Knights in Amarillo, Texas, in August may be indicative of the Knights' lack of strength. The ADL emphasizes how the Knights' website features "an Internet-based radio station…which broadcasts white power music" as well as links to the 20 state "realms"—but the available evidence suggests that the "Empire" may be a Potemkin village.

The whole critique is here.

Elsewhere in Reason: In 2005 I interviewed Garrow about incapacitated Supreme Court justices. Later that year, I looked back at an earlier, more powerful version of the Klan.