The Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacy in the United States with Dr. Maria Seger

The Ku Klux Klan and White Supremacy in the United States with Dr. Maria Seger


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How did the Ku Klux Klan form, and why has it maintained a foothold in US culture for so long? Join Dr. Maria Seger for a seminar on the history and legacies of white supremacist vigilante groups in the United States.

One of the oldest and most infamous hate groups in US culture, the Ku Klux Klan first mobilized in the wake of the Civil War to reinstall Black subjection amidst the federal program of Reconstruction. Seeking to overthrow Republican governments and restore white supremacy through clandestine and terrifying means, the Klan developed as a kind of insurgent paramilitary force. As one of many vigilante groups that arose in the South after the war, the Klan became notorious for heinous acts of violence targeted against free Black people, including lynching and sexual assault. Support for Reconstruction led to legislation and prosecution that effectively suppressed the Klan by the early 1870s.

Yet, after the Compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction and enabled the rise of Jim Crow in the South, the Klan was reborn. This time, the group was inspired by one of the first full-length Hollywood blockbusters, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), a Lost Cause narrative nostalgizing the Old South, the Confederate cause, and the original iteration of the KKK. At Stone Mountain, Georgia, that same year, the second Klan formed, dedicating itself not only to the anti-Blackness of the first Klan but also to the anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic agendas associated with US nativism. Taking its lead from popular cultural texts, this second Klan became an open secret with an elaborate set of rituals, hierarchies, and costumes.

Led by an expert on nineteenth-century US literature and culture, Dr. Maria Seger, this interactive seminar will shed light on the rise and resilience of the Ku Klux Klan across US history. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased ability to recognize and understand white supermacist terrorism in our own contemporary moment.

Maria Seger is an assistant professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she researches and teaches US, Black, and ethnic literatures and cultures and critical race and ethnic studies. Her work appears in Callaloo, Nineteenth-Century Literature, and Studies in American Naturalism, and her edited collection, Reading Confederate Monuments, is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. She earned her PhD from the University of Connecticut in 2016.

This course is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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