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Ku-KluxThe Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction$
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Elaine Frantz Parsons

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469625423

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469625423.001.0001

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Ku-Klux Attacks Define a New Black and White Manhood

Ku-Klux Attacks Define a New Black and White Manhood

(p.72) Two Ku-Klux Attacks Define a New Black and White Manhood

Elaine Frantz Parsons

University of North Carolina Press

Klan attacks took on distinct cultural forms. Ku-Klux borrowed their costume and violent performance not only from local culture, but also from popular cultural tropes in national circulation and heavily featured in minstrelsy, burlesque, circus, and carnivals. In deliberately mimicking these cultural forms, they put themselves in conversation with the northern, urban centers where so much of the naturally circulating popular culture was produced. Many of the images Ku-Klux borrowed were already weighted with a host of meanings about race, gender, and social order. Ku-Klux imported these meanings into their attacks, which they frequently used to reinforce racist cultural narratives: depicting black victims as comically overembodied and lacking in integrity. Klan victims responded not only to the violence of their attacks but also to the cultural meanings embedded in them. Depending on their circumstances and strategy, they could try to save themselves suffering by performing the minstrel roles they understood to be expected. Or they could refuse to inhabit those roles, and instead use the attack itself, and their later narration of it, to challenge the assumptions inherent in the popular cultural tropes the Ku-Klux were mobilizing.

Keywords:   Ku-Klux Klan, Minstrelsy, Klan costumes, Mardi Gras, Manhood, Terrorism, Burlesque, Racial violence, Violent performance

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