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They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group Hardcover – August 23, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7-10–This richly documented, historically contextualized account traces the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan from a small mischievous social club into a powerful, destructive organization. With compelling clarity, anecdotal detail, and insight, Bartoletti presents the complex era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, that gave rise to the KKK. After the Civil War, the defeated South was a simmering cauldron of political, economic, and social instability. As the federal government struggled to provide law and order and to protect the rights of freed slaves, secret groups of Southern whites banded together to vent their anger over lost property, prosperity, and power. From six men in a law office in Pulaski, TN, KKK dens spread across the South targeting freed blacks and their supporters. Although the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was meant to end violence, KKK activity persisted through the 20th century, diminishing in the last 30 years as civil rights became a reality for all Americans. Bartoletti includes excerpts from slave narratives, archival illustrations, and historical quotes to convey the human drama of KKK terrorism. An annotated bibliography and source notes illuminate the variety and significance of reference works. Additional secondary titles include Chester L. Quarles's scholarly The Ku Klux Klan and Related American Racialist and Antisemitic Organizations (McFarland, 2008). Bartoletti effectively targets teens with her engaging and informative account that presents a well-structured inside look at the KKK, societal forces that spawn hate/terrorist groups, and the research process.Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Bartoletti follows multi-award-winning titles such as Hitler Youth (2005) with another standout contribution to youth history shelves. Here, she examines how the Ku Klux Klan formed and grew out of the ashes of the Civil War. Bartoletti, who taught eighth-graders for 18 years, writes in admirably clear, accessible language about one of the most complex periods in U.S. history, and she deftly places the powerfully unsettling events into cultural and political context without oversimplifying. It’s the numerous first-person quotes, though, that give the book its beating heart, and her searing, expertly selected stories of people on all sides of the violent conflicts will give readers a larger understanding of the conditions that incubated the Klan’s terrorism; how profoundly the freed people and their sympathizers suffered; and how the legacy of that fear, racism, and brutality runs through our own time. In an author’s note, Bartoletti describes visiting a contemporary Klan rally as part of her research, and that bold, immersive approach to her subject is evident in every chapter of this thoroughly researched volume. Like the individual stories, the powerful archival images on every page will leave an indelible impression on young readers, who will want to move on to the extensive annotated resources. The adjacent Story behind the Story feature fills in more details about this lucid, important title, which should be required reading for young people as well as the adults in their lives. Grades 7-12. --Gillian Engberg
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1180L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: ALA: Youth Media Award Winners 2011
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (August 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061844033X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618440337
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is the award-winning author of several books for young readers, including Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850, winner of the Robert F. Sibert Medal. She lives in Moscow, Pennsylvania. Annika Maria Nelson studied printmaking at the University of Vienna in Austria and at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She lives in Southern California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Charlie_in_la on October 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Like any American adult, I had some knowledge of the Ku Klux Klan. However, prior to reading this book, I had no real understanding of the history of the Klan, how it began and how it evolved. (I had not realized how little I knew).

The evolution of this group is frightening. However, understanding this evolution is a beginning to understand the process through which a group of people, small or large, can band together in fear of the "others" and begin their journey of terror.

While this book is categorized as a "young adult" book, it is informative reading for adults (like me) as well. I would recommend this book to everyone.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on September 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
What's inside of this book, is as powerful as the cover image. The small print on the hood is "The birth of an American terrorist group" Someone with no knowledge of the klan could read this and easily understand its history. Someone who familiar with the klan could read this and appreciate the work and detail Baritoletti has put into her latest release.

Bartoletti follows a precise, timeline beginning in the Spring of 1865. In doing the upheaval America was quickly established. When the Civil War ended and Blacks were freed (air quotes) many Southren White people were scared their way of life would change. This lead six Confederate officers from Puaski, Tennessee to form a club that would soon become the kkk

Bartoletti unmasks the klan and the men behind it, from their secret codes, names and rankings. She also makes the reader wonder what would've happened if Abraham Lincoln wasn't assassinated.

"After Lincoln's death, Johnson took the oath of office. He began to reconstruct the Southern states on his own, without the help of Congress, which was not in session. Right away, he began to pardon Confederate soldiers and other supporters of the Confederate army."

The artwork is part photographs, part illustrations. On page 56 there is a photograph of man in a klans robe from the Reconstruction. On page 57 there is a photograph of W.E.B Du Bois. The art alone will give anyone much to think about.

This is one of the best non fiction books of the year. Bartoletti has not missed a thing. Her Civil Rights timeline, (6pgs), quotes cites (6pgs) and Bibliography and Source Notes (7pgs) are all very impressive and appreciated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Freya Gordon on August 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was assigned for my 7th grade son to read. We were a little worried that it might have unsuitable content for a 7th grader, however, it is well written and the issues surrounding the KKK are sensitively handled. It sparked a lot of good dinner time conversation at our house and kept his interest all the way through.

Thoroughly recommend.
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dienne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you received the kind of education I did, you learned that Reconstruction was a bitter, hateful period in American history. Northern "carpetbaggers" flocked south to pillage the already-ravaged South and enforce despotic tyranny. Southern Republican "scalawags" joined in the profiteering. In defense, Southern whites organized to protect themselves and defend the Southern way of life.. Sure, some of these groups, like the K.K.K. got out of hand, and no one supports lynching, of course, but can you blame them given what they faced?

Susan Campbell Bartoletti's "They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group" sets the record straight. Utilizing sources from government and court records to interviews with both K.K.K. members and black and white victims of the K.K.K., along with liberal use of newspaper engravings for illustration, Bartoletti traces the development of the K.K.K. in the period immediately following the end of the Civil War.

These sources make it clear that the "Southern way of life" that was being fought for was the way of slavery. Many Southern whites believed that they were superior to the "Negroes" and that God had given them dominion over them. Other Southern whites were simply worried about the economic implications of blacks having their freedom and being able to own land, develop businesses and compete with whites rather than simply providing free labor. In either case, the freeing of the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation and the North's triumph in the "War Between the States" was anathema, and Southern whites responded by trying to restore conditions as close as possible to slavery.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Iliana H. Rzodkiewicz on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to use as a resource for my 8th grade students. I made copies of important chapters for my students so that we could examine the KKK in our Reconstruction Unit. My kids love it! They are shocked by the information, but the shock keeps their interest. I am extremely happy with this purchase- perfect level for the middle school (and above) student.
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By Shannon Dianne on October 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
Great YA book and primer for those interested in the origins and early period of the Klan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the KKK is pathetic, the book was well written. There are just enough illustrations and other visuals to keep the reader interested.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but it is filled with beautiful pictures & seems easy to comprehend!! Im hoping the reading level wont be too low for what I need it for. Good find.
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