"Unmasked! The Rise and Fall of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan" -- A New Book with Contemporary Overtones

May 25, 2016

On this installment of StudioTulsa, we welcome Ann Patton back to our show. Patton is known locally for the many years she spent in Tulsa as an author, journalist, and activist; she now lives in Florida. She stops by our KWGS studios to tell us about her latest book, which is called "Unmasked! The Rise and Fall of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan." It's a work of historical reportage that Patton first started researching back in the late 1980s, and it profiles a charismatic yet deeply flawed political figure who first came on the scene (as an ardent Socialist) in Oklahoma and then came to power (as a KKK leader) in Indiana. (The book has just been published, and Patton is visiting Tulsa in order to do several signings and readings for it; more on those events can be found here.) As noted of this fascinating volume at Patton's website: "[This] book tells the gripping tale of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan, its mesmerizing young leader David Curtis Stephenson, his rise to soaring power, and the brutal rape and murder that [ended Stephenson's career and] killed the Klan empire. [Patton's] true-crime book of non-fiction political history reads like a fiction thriller and offers important lessons for America, today and tomorrow. Throngs of Americans rallied at the feet of Grand Dragon Stephenson, a blond charmer who was marketing hate as a political weapon, with violent undertones and vast fiscal rewards. In the process, he was melding his followers into a polished political machine that could not be stopped. At its height, the movement captured the loyalty of millions around the nation, and it worked like magic -- for a while. But he stumbled on his way to the White House, and his empire, inherently flawed, crumbled, tarnishing all it touched.... They called him Steve, the 'white knight' of the Klan. Many of Steve's divisive issues, such as immigration and religious bigotry, are still alive today."