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Linda Gordon on 'The Second Coming of the KKK'

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Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota
This 1925 photo provided by the Steele County Historical Society via the The Rochester Post-Bulletin, shows the state Ku Klux Klan conclave at the Steele County Fairgrounds, in Owatonna, Minn.
Steele County Historical Society via The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP

Here's a look at some history of the Ku Klux Klan in America, how it worked, and why it became so mainstream.

Spike Lee's movie, "BlacKkKlansman" is up for numerous Golden Globe awards this weekend. It's based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the African-American police detective in Colorado Springs who infiltrated and exposed the KKK there in the early 1970s.

New York University history professor Linda Gordon has written a book exploring the history and impact of the KKK titled, "The Second Coming of the KKK. The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition." 

A terrorist organization, often not even secret, was at times a mass movement claiming from 3 million to 6 million members across the country. The strongest groups were north of the Mason-Dixon line. 

Comprised of native-born white Protestant business people, farmers, craftsmen, professionals and more than a million women, the KKK in the 1920s terrorized Catholics, Jews and African-Americans. Bigotry against most immigrants was pervasive.

Gordon says the Klan had a "yearning for a society where everyone is alike." 

Many people were attracted to the Klan as "participatory theater," Gordon says. There were Klan funerals, weddings, college fraternity chapters, and even baseball teams. Gordon says nearly all of the Madison, Wisconsin police department were members of the KKK. 

The Klan counted among its members 11 governors, 45 members of Congress and hundreds of local government officials.

Gordon is a professor of history at New York University. She spoke in St. Paul on Nov. 3, 2018 at the Minnesota Historical Society's "History Forum." She was introduced by History Forum coordinator Danielle Dart.

To listen to her speech, click the audio player above.