Klansville, U.S.A.

KLANSVILLE, U.S.A.

PRODUCER, DIRECTOR: Callie T. Wiser, TELESCRIPT BY: David Espar and Callie T. Wiser / AMERICAN EXPERIENCE / JANUARY 2015

Having been dormant for decades, the Ku Klux Klan reemerged in the U.S. after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision, gaining momentum in the U.S. as the civil rights movement grew. That the Klan would rise once again wasn’t surprising, but where the reincarnation took place was. North Carolina had an image of being the most progressive southern state, yet in 1963, North Carolina salesman Bob Jones chartered what would become the largest Klan group in the country, which, under his leadership, grew to some ten thousand members. In the process, the group helped give the Tarheel State a new nickname: “Klansville, U.S.A.”

“When we talk about the Klan now we tend to think about the horrific violence that occurred in Alabama or Mississippi,” said Callie T. Wiser. “But if we think that racism only shows itself as violent acts or cross burning, then we can miss the fact that, as in North Carolina, a more subtle and perhaps more insidious form of racism can still lurk within American social and political structures.”

“What we’ve tried to do in Klansville is offer a 360-degree perspective, shifting the focus from those who supported the civil rights movement to those who saw integration and social change as a threat to their way of life,” said American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels. “What made these people go to extremes and join a hate group? From where does racism spring? What keeps it alive in this nation? These are hard questions, but only by searching for answers will we make the progress we need to make.”

Klansville U.S.A. is based in part on the book by the same name by David Cunningham.

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