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Terror in the Night: The Klan's Campaign Against the Jews Hardcover – January 20, 1993

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ku Klux Klansmen, claiming that Jews were the driving force behind the civil rights movement, bombed two synagogues and a rabbi's house in Jackson and in Meridian, Miss., in 1967-68. A Klan hit list targeted Jewish business leaders for assassination. Nelson, Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief who covered the South in the civil rights era, discovered evidence that the FBI and the Meridian police, using funds supplied by the Jewish community, paid informants to set a trap that left Klan hit man Thomas Tarrants III wounded and his fanatically anti-Semitic bomb-maker girlfriend Kathy Ainsworth dead. This absorbing true-crime tale is a time capsule to the civil rights movement's heyday. Using FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Nelson recreates the case and illuminates the FBI's long vendetta against him for his reportage. Photos. Jewish Book Club alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This often gripping journalistic account of appeasement and retribution in 1960s Mississippi has three parts. The first is the story of how the assimilated Jewish communities of Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi, which had resisted opposing segregation and racial violence, were drawn into the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan when they too became targets of attacks. The leaders of those communities then experienced the poetic justice of being unable to enlist fellow citizens, cautious appeasers, in the fight. The second part is the story of the response of the FBI and the local police, with the cooperation of the Jewish community leaders--retribution that ultimately overstepped the limits of legality. Of particular interest is Nelson's detailed account of how the FBI bullied two leading Klansmen into cooperating. The last and least interesting part is Nelson's recitation of the personal and professional risks he took in uncovering the story of the retribution. Recommended for history collections.
- Timothy Christenfeld, Columbia Univ.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (January 20, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671692232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671692230
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessica Weissman on January 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you weren't alive then, you probably don't remember that the Klan not only hated Jews, but bombed their homes and places of worship.

Nelson tells this story, but also tells how at least one of the Klansmen either was entrapped or very nearly entrapped by a law enforcement operation. Is bribery and so on ok to catch someone this loathesome who would probably have carried out another bombing anyway if not led on by police? Would you think the same thing if you agreed with the bomber's cause?

Read this - it is informative, scary, and fascinating. And make your own judgement about the cases, and the people involved on all sides of it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
TERROR IN THE NIGHT carried me back into the earlier life of a man who later became my student. I had known about his earlier life in sketchy outlines, but this 20 year old book by master reporter Jack Nelson drew me back into the late sixties when I myself was a seminary student and traveled with fellow students to Atlanta to the funeral of the larger than life figure of Martin Luther King Jr. But the murder of King was an outcropping of the very deep and pervasive racial hatred and Klan violence against blacks and Jews all across the South. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of these events it is important for us to re-read and remember the terrors some of us have lived through, whether as victims or perpetrators. My former student is now a very different man.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book after learning of a friend of mine who grew up Jewish in Jackson Mississippi and went through everything Nelson talks about. The book was incredibly written and Nelson is a phenomonal Journalist. I highly recomend this book to anyone looking to learn more about American history or history of Jews in the South.
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Format: Paperback
Review of Terror in the Night: The Klans Campaign Against the Jews by Jack Nelson (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1993). 260pp. $22.00. Reviewed by Barry Mehler for Hadassah Magazine, 1993.
December 28, 1992
720 words

Jack Nelson is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and one of America's leading reporters on the civil rights movement. His latest book, Terror in the Night is a "non-fiction thriller" that is sure to please anyone who enjoys a faced-paced, action packed book. According to the jacket cover, Terror in the Night is "the explosive story of how the FBI and the Meridian police, bankrolled by the Jewish community and assisted by informants, planned an ambush that killed a female elementary-school teacher and left the Klan's top hit man critically wounded. Some cried entrapment. Some cried murder. Still others cried justice.

And some, who will read this book will cry "exploitation and sensationalism!" The implication in the blurb is that the Jewish community bankrolled an "ambush" which resulted in the death of an innocent elementary school teacher.

The "female elementary school teacher" was no innocent bystander. She was a cold blooded terrorist out for murder. At the time she was shot, she was armed and dangerous. Her car was parked in front of the house of Meyer Davidson, a Jewish community leader active in the civil rights movement. She was there with her partner, Tommy Tarrants who had brought sixteen sticks of dynamite to blow up Davidson's house and kill his family. The blurb could just as well have said that the ambush put an end to the Klan's reign of terror and that one Klan terrorist was killed and the other captured. Instead, the book is written and advertised as a shocking exposŠ.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Nelson clearly details an important chapter in the history of the United States of America. The books points out the need be vigilant with regards of the human (civil) rights of others even we personally are not immediately involved.
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Format: Paperback
I had to read this for school. I thought it would be horribly boring, but it was excellent.
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By Bill48 on February 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terror in the Night met all my expectations. Live in MS and remember these well covered events. I know some of the still living players in this book as well as two of the now deceased MPD members. Well written by Mr. Nelson.
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When I was a volunteer civil rights worker in Mississippi during 1964, I was not welcomed into any local synogogue. As a Jewish New Yorker, I figured I had two strikes against me but still hoped for some dialogue. I had the support of my family and synogogue in New York when I went south, but I knew that local Jews in Mississippi were in a complex situation. Some were racist and pro-segregation, some were conformist and just hoped the storm would pass, and some were terrified of Klan and White Citizen Council retaliation --some few, I hoped, had other reactions and saw other options. It reminded me of the dilemmas that individual Jews faced in Nazi Germany about what roles to play in the face of that official system of oppression, discrimination and terror. Jack Nelson's book "Terror in the Night: The Klan's Campaign Against the Jews" is important reading about the 1960s in Mississippi, about Klan attacks on Jews, and especially about the varied responses within the Jewish community to those Klan attacks and bombings. The Klan has historically hated Jews. The Klan's attacks described by Nelson were not because Jackson and Meridian rabbis had come out publicly in opposition to segregation or in favor of voting rights for African Americans, but because the religious leaders finally objected to the massive burnings of black churches. Nelson also offers an intriguing and nuanced analaysis of the FBI's use of COINTELPRO techniques for infiltrating the Klan -- and interestingly describes Hoover's response to his articles and book. For someone interested in this topic from a different perspective, I would also suggest the wonderful book by Debra L. Schultz (et al) "Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement" (2001)
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