Hot Best Seller

Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy

Availability: Ready to download

Life of a Klansman tells the story of a warrior in the Ku Klux Klan, a carpenter in Louisiana who took up the cause of fanatical racism during the years after the Civil War. Author Edward Ball, a descendant of the Klansman, paints a portrait of his family’s anti-black militant that is part history, part memoir rich in personal detail. Sifting through family lore about “our Life of a Klansman tells the story of a warrior in the Ku Klux Klan, a carpenter in Louisiana who took up the cause of fanatical racism during the years after the Civil War. Author Edward Ball, a descendant of the Klansman, paints a portrait of his family’s anti-black militant that is part history, part memoir rich in personal detail. Sifting through family lore about “our Klansman” as well as public and private records, Ball reconstructs the story of his great-great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne. A white French Creole, father of five, and working class ship carpenter, Lecorgne had a career in white terror of notable and bloody completeness: massacres, night riding, masked marches, street rampages—all part of a tireless effort that he and other Klansmen made to restore white power when it was threatened by the emancipation of four million enslaved African Americans. To offer a non-white view of the Ku-klux, Ball seeks out descendants of African Americans who were once victimized by “our Klansman” and his comrades, and shares their stories. For whites, to have a Klansman in the family tree is no rare thing: Demographic estimates suggest that fifty percent of whites in the United States have at least one ancestor who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan at some point in its history. That is, one-half of white Americans could write a Klan family memoir, if they wished.


Compare

Life of a Klansman tells the story of a warrior in the Ku Klux Klan, a carpenter in Louisiana who took up the cause of fanatical racism during the years after the Civil War. Author Edward Ball, a descendant of the Klansman, paints a portrait of his family’s anti-black militant that is part history, part memoir rich in personal detail. Sifting through family lore about “our Life of a Klansman tells the story of a warrior in the Ku Klux Klan, a carpenter in Louisiana who took up the cause of fanatical racism during the years after the Civil War. Author Edward Ball, a descendant of the Klansman, paints a portrait of his family’s anti-black militant that is part history, part memoir rich in personal detail. Sifting through family lore about “our Klansman” as well as public and private records, Ball reconstructs the story of his great-great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne. A white French Creole, father of five, and working class ship carpenter, Lecorgne had a career in white terror of notable and bloody completeness: massacres, night riding, masked marches, street rampages—all part of a tireless effort that he and other Klansmen made to restore white power when it was threatened by the emancipation of four million enslaved African Americans. To offer a non-white view of the Ku-klux, Ball seeks out descendants of African Americans who were once victimized by “our Klansman” and his comrades, and shares their stories. For whites, to have a Klansman in the family tree is no rare thing: Demographic estimates suggest that fifty percent of whites in the United States have at least one ancestor who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan at some point in its history. That is, one-half of white Americans could write a Klan family memoir, if they wished.

30 review for Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's one of my favorite reads of the year so far. The author has discovered that his ancestors were slave owners AND Ku Klux Clan members. And before you cast judgement on him for this fact, he shows that the odds of you having such an ancestor in your past are 50/50! Ball traces the history of the slave trade in Louisiana, the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Jim Crow laws, and the birth of the Ku Klux Clan. To do so, he vividly describes the belie I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's one of my favorite reads of the year so far. The author has discovered that his ancestors were slave owners AND Ku Klux Clan members. And before you cast judgement on him for this fact, he shows that the odds of you having such an ancestor in your past are 50/50! Ball traces the history of the slave trade in Louisiana, the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Jim Crow laws, and the birth of the Ku Klux Clan. To do so, he vividly describes the beliefs, attitudes, and feelings of the slave owners. And, to a degree, of the slaves themselves. He really made me feel like I was standing next to and talking with his ancestors. The rationales used to justify slavery are, honestly, heartbreaking. You cannot help but feel the despair of watching black families ripped apart as their children are sold as property, just like you would sell cattle or cotton. Or of the terror black families felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Clan. Or the feelings of disgust as you witness how the Clan is accepted, even encouraged, by people. The author has also tracked down the ancestors of several of the characters in the book. Thru interviews with them he made further discoveries. The author is trying to make amends for his family's past. It's a good step, admitting that we all have a duty to improve. I highly recommend this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    “White supremacy is not a marginal ideology. It is the early build of the country. It is a foundation on which the social edifice rises, bedrock of institutions. White supremacy also lies on the floor of our minds. Whiteness is not a deformation of thought, but a kind of thought itself… ‘The story that follows is not that a writer discovers a shameful family secret and turns to the public to confess it. The story here is that whiteness and its tribal nature are normal, everywhere, and seem as per “White supremacy is not a marginal ideology. It is the early build of the country. It is a foundation on which the social edifice rises, bedrock of institutions. White supremacy also lies on the floor of our minds. Whiteness is not a deformation of thought, but a kind of thought itself… ‘The story that follows is not that a writer discovers a shameful family secret and turns to the public to confess it. The story here is that whiteness and its tribal nature are normal, everywhere, and seem as permanent as the sunrise.” I read this book free and early; thanks go to Net Galley and Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux for the review copy. Edward Ball writes about his ancestor, Constant Lecorgnes, known fondly within his family as “our Klansman.” The biography is noteworthy in that it is told without apology or moral judgement, as if Ball wants whites to feel okay about the racism, the rape, the exploitation, the murders, the terrorism that membership in the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, and any and all of the other white supremacist organizations have carried out, and will continue to carry out, in the United States. Relax, he tells us, it’s normal. Well, let’s back up a moment. The “us” in the narrative is always Caucasians. It apparently hasn’t occurred to him that anybody else might read his book. In some ways, the “us” and the “our” used consistently and liberally throughout this biography are even worse than the explicit horrors detailed within its pages. It’s as if there is a huge, entitled club, and those that don’t belong are not invited to read. Further, it’s as if all white people are of a similar mind and share similar goals. Not so much. Ball won the National Book Award some years back for Slaves in the Family, a title currently adorning my shelves downstairs. I have begun it two or three times, but it didn’t hold me long enough for me to see what he does with it. And this book is the same, in that the late Lecorgnes is not particularly compelling as a subject, except within the framework of his terrorism. He was not, Ball tells us, a key player; he was just one more Caucasian foot soldier within the Klan. And so, the reading drones along, and then there are the key pronouns that capture my attention, those that give ownership to his terrible heritage, and a couple of paragraphs of the history of the period, particularly within Southern Louisiana, follow; lather, rinse, repeat. As I read, I search for accountability. As it happens, I have one of those relatives too; but my elders, though not beacons within the Civil Rights realm by a long shot, understood that such a membership brings shame upon us, and consequently I was not supposed to know about him at all. I overheard some words intended to be private, uttered quietly during a moment of profound grief following a sudden death. My mother spoke to someone—my father? I can’t recall—but she referred to her father’s horrifying activity, and I was so shocked that I left off lurking and spying, and burst into the room. I believe I was ten years old at the time. I was told that the man—who was never, and never will be referred to in the fond, familiar manner that Ball does—was not entirely right in the head. He truly believed he was helping to protect Southern Caucasian women, but he was wrong. It was awful, and now it’s over; let’s not talk about it anymore. In fact, this topic was so taboo that my own sister didn’t know. She is old now, and was shocked when I mentioned it last spring. She had no idea. As I developed, I understood, from teachers and friends more enlightened than Mr. Ball, that the best way we can deal with ugly things in our background that we cannot change, is to contribute our own energies in the opposite direction. I’ve lived by it, and so I was waiting for Ball to say something similar, if not in the prologue, then surely somewhere near the end; but he never did. If Ball feels any duty whatsoever to balance the scales of his family’s terrible contribution, he doesn’t offer it up. There’s no call to action, no cry for social justice. Just the message that hey—it’s normal, and it’s fine. I’m not sure if I want to read his other work anymore; but I know that what I cannot do, and will not do, is recommend this book to you.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vonda

    Whilst this book is a very tough subject to write on, it was wonderfully researched it could quite well serve as a history book. Sadly, I don't think it will play well anywhere but our region. I am from the same area and realize most of the residents have a Klansman in their family background. A beautiful history of the beginning of Louisiana as well it is an informative read. Whilst this book is a very tough subject to write on, it was wonderfully researched it could quite well serve as a history book. Sadly, I don't think it will play well anywhere but our region. I am from the same area and realize most of the residents have a Klansman in their family background. A beautiful history of the beginning of Louisiana as well it is an informative read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    This is a powerful book. It starts like a conventional genealogy but once you come to the portrait of Polycarp Constant Lecorgne (1832-86) a deeper meaning begins. The ending can’t help but overwhelm the reader. Edward Ball's great-great-great grandfather was an ordinary man. He was born into a family that achieved modest status under the slave system. One brother inherited the bulk of the “plantation” and another became politically connected. The third brother, PCL, inherited a slave and bought This is a powerful book. It starts like a conventional genealogy but once you come to the portrait of Polycarp Constant Lecorgne (1832-86) a deeper meaning begins. The ending can’t help but overwhelm the reader. Edward Ball's great-great-great grandfather was an ordinary man. He was born into a family that achieved modest status under the slave system. One brother inherited the bulk of the “plantation” and another became politically connected. The third brother, PCL, inherited a slave and bought one, but while he was a competent carpenter, he was destined to downward mobility. PCL botched his military career but was able to re-instate himself, unbeknownst to others, at a lower level and under a false name. Ball traces PCL through marches, skirmishes, forages and finding Union uniforms to replace the rags his uniform had become. There is a description of how his wife came to visit to share the birth of their child which he missed since he had to leave for a maneuver. (The child died a year and a half later.) After the war, the economy was a wreck as were the CSA bonds PCL bought (maybe to redeem his name when booted out of the CSA Army). Most likely he never recognized how the war, to which he gave so much, was to preserve the status of his better off relatives who did not serve. Ball writes of the people and events of New Orleans at this time and how his forbear participated (when documented) or may have participated in them. You see how “the Ku-Klux” (and its many equivalent groups) appealed to those who, like PCL, were economically diminished. You learn how these groups started with secret signs and rituals. Their meetings and parades turned to violence. Violence turned to a war against the newly elected local government (which had many Black office holders and police). What remained of the Union's post-war occupation troops and the few government officials was necessary to resist the armed mobs and militias. The North, tired of the news of violence in the south, was done with the war and done with Reconstruction. It wanted to move on. The promise to withdraw federal troops from the south resolved a tie in the electoral college and put Rutherford Hayes a (former abolitionist) in the White House in 1877. This ended a “hot war” that resulted in the disenfranchisement of the New Orlean's (and through similar actions elsewhere, the south's) Black population for 4 generations. It did not end the terror for Blacks in the South, only the overt armed combat. The Supreme Court reinforced this in 1896 by its 7-1 decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) saying that “separate but equal was not a violation of the 14th amendment. Besides primary sources in print, the author includes oral family history and finds and interviews descendants of two Black leaders of this period. Both families shed further light on the events and their aftermath. For me, this built on After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace, which is a conventional history of Reconstruction showing how Andrew Johnson’s policies undermined the Union’s win. This book, shows what went “on the ground” (as they say today) during and after Johnson with CSA veterans armed and able to create, and win for the south, a second civil war. This book should be widely read and put on high school reading lists.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    I understand why the author wanted to write this book. With recent events and the outdated violent racism still rocking the US, Ball might have felt compelled to write the book, especially in view of the fact that his ancestor was a problem and party to this injustice. He may have had some level of white guilt and the desire to make reparations. Or he might have just thought this was a great time to write a book that would definitely become popular. Whatever his reasons, Life of a Klansman is no I understand why the author wanted to write this book. With recent events and the outdated violent racism still rocking the US, Ball might have felt compelled to write the book, especially in view of the fact that his ancestor was a problem and party to this injustice. He may have had some level of white guilt and the desire to make reparations. Or he might have just thought this was a great time to write a book that would definitely become popular. Whatever his reasons, Life of a Klansman is not what he says it is: a family memoir. There is precious little of Constant Lecorgne (Ball’s Klan ancestor) in the book. We do get his biography from his birth onwards but there is not much solid information about him and his terrorist exploits. Instead, what we get is a range of suppositions by his great-great-grandson on what he “might” have been doing. Which is pretty useless! This aggravated me no end because the book is marketed as a family memoir but there is nothing interesting about the family, especially in the latter half of the book. Instead of a biography, Ball goes deep into the politics of the time and drops names of which I have never heard and in which I am not interested. There are just too many people to make any sense of and I did not really enjoy jumping from one story to the other, while still waiting for Lecorgne to make an appearance. Admittedly, the research is quite detailed and if Ball had restructured the story as a history of racism in the US, it would have been much better. The author’s habit of addressing the reader and claiming white kinship with them was annoying to me. This may have been useful in making white readers uncomfortable (the goal of the book) but to me, it was merely annoying and distanced me from the story. Why should I read a book that specifically appears to be written for white people? I learned new things from this book, so it wasn’t a completely useless waste of time. But I just glazed over huge parts because I was bored, and I am sure there are better such books out there!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Author Edward Ball writes about his family history in this powerful, indeed often harrowing, account of racism in Louisiana in the years after the American Civil War. His great-great grandfather became a member of the Ku-Klux Klan, and he and his fellow Klansmen were determined to restore white power whatever it took. This book chronicles the terror they unleashed against their black neighbours and it makes for some difficult reading. But the book is not just a family memoir, but a wide-ranging Author Edward Ball writes about his family history in this powerful, indeed often harrowing, account of racism in Louisiana in the years after the American Civil War. His great-great grandfather became a member of the Ku-Klux Klan, and he and his fellow Klansmen were determined to restore white power whatever it took. This book chronicles the terror they unleashed against their black neighbours and it makes for some difficult reading. But the book is not just a family memoir, but a wide-ranging history of a whole era and an exploration of and meditation on the very nature of racism and its so-called ideology. It demonstrates how quickly white supremacy became a part of American life, where, as we know all too well, it survives to this day. It’s an unflinching look back at the past and an attempt to understand just how his own family could have become so filled with hate. The book is a valuable contribution to the literature of race, racism and prejudice, written with insight and honesty, and is an original approach to this important issue. It’s a compelling and illuminating read, which I very much enjoyed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy by Edward Ball This was a difficult read, hard to get through. My white skin felt very radioactive. As Edward Ball has DNA that marched to 2020 through Southern byways, so do I. Here there are ancestors, glorified by family lore that tells of owning other human beings, and storytellers curating their take on the true and proper order of things. I had become aware of this author’s research and angst through his first book, Slaves in the Family Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy by Edward Ball This was a difficult read, hard to get through. My white skin felt very radioactive. As Edward Ball has DNA that marched to 2020 through Southern byways, so do I. Here there are ancestors, glorified by family lore that tells of owning other human beings, and storytellers curating their take on the true and proper order of things. I had become aware of this author’s research and angst through his first book, Slaves in the Family, and appreciated his acknowledgment and the existence of a great deal of guilt over the actions of ancestors, and the quandary of what to do about it. Clearly there have been a small few who have worried and written over this, but it has taken the era of the cell phone video, undeniable proof of not just prejudice and preference – but all out systemic infection. It has infected even those who think they are not at all touched by the stain of it. . . This author does the hard, brave job of pulling off the polish of his own family stories, and getting down to the bare wood grain – digging back through Aunt Maud’s stories – a fairly recent generation – who has the last connection with a grandfather, Constant Lecorgnes. This grandchild of the plantation model, now without that promised future, mixes and mingles and falls in with the petit blancs (poor whites who do the actual massacres, persecution and abuse) - employees and workers, "collaborators" of the grand blancs (rich ones, who “prefer not to use violence themselves; they prefer others to do that necessary work.”) Getting boss's desired results no matter what it takes, for the promised greater pay, value, status or benefit. Sometimes "boss" is the richer more well-placed town / county / parish / country politician. They might even belong to the same secret organization. After reading so many books on politics askew and white supremacy spouted from astonishing sources, that paragraph sunk in, deep down. Just maybe, I allow myself to think, what is happening is not at all new. I begin to suspect there is an entire section of petit blancs who, while they haven’t aligned themselves with terrorists, rather prefer to believe that if all is well with them, all is well for all. That standing quietly by is a strong enough statement. Edward Ball’s latest book moves my mind toward change. I can see and feel the infection, from the Civil War down my humble family lines through the stories, the jests, the side comments, the social judgments. Denial doesn’t make it go away, no auto-delete. A stunning and painful realization. It’s taken too long to get here, and doesn’t answer the question, but it gets nearer. These are not proud, traditional organizations (KKK-ilk). They are infections, as sickening and debilitating as any bacterial or viral foe we face. It's easy to believe you've never had connection to one. The scary part is . . . you probably have, just a generation or so ago. Or yesterday. I highly recommend this read, if you are ready to turn around and look behind you. A Sincere Thanks to Edward Ball, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Disclaimer: I read an e-ARC of this book on June 30, 2020, which is not the final version. Anyways, I have been looking for this book for years. Not this particular work but something like it. I have a similar lifelong moral struggle to the author except instead of my Klansman I have my Nazis. Whenever an American brings the Nazis up to Germans, their counterargument is 100% going to either be a.) the Native American genocide or b.) Slavery. Much of the eugenics presented in this book is the exac Disclaimer: I read an e-ARC of this book on June 30, 2020, which is not the final version. Anyways, I have been looking for this book for years. Not this particular work but something like it. I have a similar lifelong moral struggle to the author except instead of my Klansman I have my Nazis. Whenever an American brings the Nazis up to Germans, their counterargument is 100% going to either be a.) the Native American genocide or b.) Slavery. Much of the eugenics presented in this book is the exact same rhetoric that the Nazis used to show why the Jews were the subhumans. Germans do not see much of a difference between their Nazis and our Slavers. That is because it is the same thing and this is a fact that makes most white Americans uncomfortable. Edward Ball claims this fact. It makes him uncomfortable. He is uncomfortable recognizing his own features and characteristics in his Klansman. I feel you, bro...150 years is not that long ago and 75 is even less. Not all families have hero stories. I really love how in depth this book goes, genealogically and historically speaking. Maybe it is Ball's personal connection but he does an excellent job at telling a story. I love that he goes to find descendants of historical events involving his Klansman. This is not the average history book about Louisiana, the KKK, or the Civil War. This is not a particularly short book but I read the entire thing in one day. I could not stop. It was a book that demanded to be read. You should read it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I really expected to love this book unequivocally; that is certainly my feeling about Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family, which recounts his father's family's history of enslaving hundreds of Africans and then traces some of them back in time and forward in time. I found it gripping and moving. This, by contrast, the story of the great-great grandfather who was a member of the KKK on his mother's side, fell flat for me. There were a few reasons for this. First, Ball just doesn't know enough abou I really expected to love this book unequivocally; that is certainly my feeling about Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family, which recounts his father's family's history of enslaving hundreds of Africans and then traces some of them back in time and forward in time. I found it gripping and moving. This, by contrast, the story of the great-great grandfather who was a member of the KKK on his mother's side, fell flat for me. There were a few reasons for this. First, Ball just doesn't know enough about Polycarp Constant Lecorgne's (amazing name, to be sure) life to write an entire book about him. This is not for want of trying, but un-famous people don't usually leave behind much of a record. This means much of the book is context and speculation, LOTS and LOTS of speculation, about what Lecorgne and the various members of his family might have done or thought or felt. He admits it's speculation but when there is so much of it, maybe it's just not the best subject for a book. Second, Ball is clearly trying to say something important about race, and racism, and whiteness, but the language is just trying SO HARD to be profound, it hits you over the head with it. I found it incredibly trying and yet I agree with Ball about the legacy of slavery and the deeply problematic nature of white supremacy. But all the pausing to ruminate just read as so much clunkiness to me. Third, I hated that Ball's notes rarely make note of much of the really important work by historians about so many of these subjects. Ball is a journalist, I get that, and he definitely makes note of the primary sources he uses in order to tell his story, but the reason he's able to know so much about all of the context is because generations of historians--most of whom go unnamed--have already done all this work for him. It's OK to rely on that work, but cite it! Fourth, in attempting to get inside the mind of his ancestor he regularly uses the language he imagines that Lecorgne himself might have used. This includes plentiful use of the n-word. It's one thing when the sources themselves employ the word, but I just don't think it's necessary for a white writer to use the word when it's pretty easy to convey the hatred and disdain that white Klansmen felt for African Americans through their actions. I don't doubt that Lecorgne probably did use the word, but given that we know people find it disturbing, why not just omit? There's plenty of awfulness in here already.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    What a schmuck.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Burris

    Edward Ball, award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, turns his attention to another family story: that of Constant Lecorgne, a direct ancestor of Ball who was a founding member of both the Ku Klux Klan and the White League in New Orleans during Reconstruction. Ball's account of his ancestor, a great-great grandfather, is neither damning nor especially supportive of Lecorgne's actions, though, something in my reading of the book leaves me with the feeling that there is warmth for the man. I Edward Ball, award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, turns his attention to another family story: that of Constant Lecorgne, a direct ancestor of Ball who was a founding member of both the Ku Klux Klan and the White League in New Orleans during Reconstruction. Ball's account of his ancestor, a great-great grandfather, is neither damning nor especially supportive of Lecorgne's actions, though, something in my reading of the book leaves me with the feeling that there is warmth for the man. It's just enough to be unsettling and left me feeling that I wanted Lecorgne punished for the evil he perpetuated. I wanted Ball to be chagrined at or embarrassed by his (many greats) grandfather. Instead, though he isn't necessarily proud of Lecorgne, he seems indifferent to his ancestor's actions. Indeed, Ball's mother and aunt almost fondly refer to Lecorgne as "Our Klansman," as if it is something of which to be proud. Still, Life of a Klansman gives insight into race relations in New Orleans pre, during, and post Civil War. Many of a history buff's questions about the legislation of segregation are answered here. One of the great conundrums of Reconstruction is how so many African-Americans could hold office after the Civil War, particularly in Louisiana, only to be stripped of their offices and become subject to Jim Crow laws a few years later. Were people enlightened or not? Remember, for all of the many cultures that were the foundation of New Orleans, it was also the location of Plessy vs. Ferguson, and, years later, Brown vs. the Board of Education. It is at once pluralistic and segregationist. As a piece of writing, there are a few other things about this text that are grating. One thing is the constant use of "Our Klansman." I don't know how many times it's used in the first half of the book, even after Lecorgne's name is introduced, but it's a bit much. I could also have done without the dip into racism and the subconcious. Likewise, I don't like the idea Ball presents that the Ku Klux Klan was used as a scapegoat. The Klan did what they did, and they should've been held responsible for it. Aside from some of the annoyances of Life of a Klansman, there are places where Ball's writing shines, particularly in his interview with the descendants of Alfred Capla, a free-born African-American who was witness to a massacre at Mechanics Hall in New Orleans, where white supremacists surrounded the building, slaughtering any African-Americans who fled the hall in fear of them. It was a pivotal moment in the formation of the Klan in New Orleans. Overall, Life of a Klansman is worth a read, particularly for people with an interest in the history of New Orleans, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Book

    This is truly a fascinating study of one random person’s association with evil, and it speaks volumes about poverty, relations, and the ripple effects of time and hate. An interesting idea backed up with dynamite research and some fair and insightful speculation to fill in the gaps.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marli

    I didn’t make it all the way through. Although the book likely holds a perspective of the civil war and Antebellum that is not often aired in the open, the White author’s unnecessary use of the n word helped me decide to stop reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    SUSAN *Nevertheless,she persisted*

    A portion of a speech given to the Ladies of the Anti Slavery Society of Rochester,NY by abolitionist Frederick Douglas,in 1850.. "The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham,your humanity as a base pretense and your Christianity as a lie" This book is a man detailing a part of his family's participation in the KKK. This book delves into the Civil war and the inception of the KKK. It is well written and more often than not difficult to read. I reside in Tennessee,I A portion of a speech given to the Ladies of the Anti Slavery Society of Rochester,NY by abolitionist Frederick Douglas,in 1850.. "The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham,your humanity as a base pretense and your Christianity as a lie" This book is a man detailing a part of his family's participation in the KKK. This book delves into the Civil war and the inception of the KKK. It is well written and more often than not difficult to read. I reside in Tennessee,I relocated about three years ago. In the news for the last couple of years protestors have rallying for the removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest that is in the state house in Nashville. The news reported that Nathan owned slaves and the protesters feel that there shouldn't be a bust honoring him. I utterly agree. But it goes beyond good ole Nate owning slaves. He was a confederate army General who had 300 hundred free men of color ,fighting for the North, executed when they surrendered to him during the war. He was also the First Grand Wizard of the KKK. The rallying cry to preserve such memorials to the confederacy is unfathomable to me. The outcry is that it is "erasing our history". It isn't erasing history,history is always there whether good or bad. It is shameful to honor these men,they were not heros. They were mainly fighting for a way of life that was both shameful and criminal. Some qoutes from the book... "In 1925 the KKK could claim FIVE million members,white and christian. "The 45th POTUS is the son of Fred Trump,who was arrested in N.Y. one memorial day during the 1920's at a rally staged by the KKK. "

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This was a hard book to read. Not because it was boring or difficult to understand, but because it chronicles the history of racism and African-American abuse in this country, specifically New Orleans and Louisiana, in this case. The author's great-great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne, was a resident of the city and a veteran of the Civil War. He was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan and referred to in family lore as "our Klansman." The author takes ownership of this while appalled by the acts t This was a hard book to read. Not because it was boring or difficult to understand, but because it chronicles the history of racism and African-American abuse in this country, specifically New Orleans and Louisiana, in this case. The author's great-great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne, was a resident of the city and a veteran of the Civil War. He was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan and referred to in family lore as "our Klansman." The author takes ownership of this while appalled by the acts that his ancestor undoubtedly perpetrated; he acknowledges this as part of his history as well as this country's. He estimates based on population, genealogy, and records that fully half of Americans have an ancestor somewhere in their lineage that was part of that horrid organization. This was also difficult to read because I have one of my own: my paternal grandfather. Mr. Ball's ancestor was part of the birth of the KKK; mine was part of the resurgence of it in the early 20th century. Some might know that Indiana was shamefully a hotbed of Klan activity in the 1920s. Sadly, we still have supporters of it and of white supremacy around the area. My father maintained that his father didn't totally understand what he joined; he thought it was an effort to prevent horse thievery. By all accounts (and what little I remember of him), my grandpa was a kind and decent man. The fact that he joined with such an abomination shows just how pervasive it was in our country. The author writes: "I know the honest way to regard race violence is this: American history is full of it. It is pandemic. The United States was founded upon racial violence. It is within the core of our national identity." This is a true statement and never more true than today. Those who proclaim that there is "no racism" in America and that America is "not a racist country," are either in denial, delusional, or ignorant. Maybe all three. It is part of our national blood. In order to deal with it, we must acknowledge it. Our racial—and racist—reckoning is long overdue. Some of the things in this book are stomach-churning. But it goes a long way to explaining much of the animus today between the northern and southern states. I in no way condone what some in the south call "the Lost Cause" and what so many still regard as The War of Northern Aggression. (In fact, I have plenty to say about that and I can sum it up as, "You lost. We won. Deal with it.") I feel like I have more of a glimpse into the psyche of those in the South, however. While this was a disturbing read on so many levels, it gave me a broader understanding of what I consider our national shame. While I've read plenty about the various battles of the Civil War, I had read very little about Reconstruction and the destructive forces that took hold during that time. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    I know it says finished but I didn't. I made it through about 62% and by that time I was mostly contemplating different forms of suicide and not paying the slightest attention to the narrator, the author, whose voice is as boring as the book. Now, before everybody jumps down my throat, I read Mr. Ball's first book Slaves in the Family which was very good so I went into this with great expectations of learning and enjoying. Didn't happen. First off, there simply wasn't enough information about h I know it says finished but I didn't. I made it through about 62% and by that time I was mostly contemplating different forms of suicide and not paying the slightest attention to the narrator, the author, whose voice is as boring as the book. Now, before everybody jumps down my throat, I read Mr. Ball's first book Slaves in the Family which was very good so I went into this with great expectations of learning and enjoying. Didn't happen. First off, there simply wasn't enough information about his New Orleans ancestor to fill a book. It's painfully obvious that once he found the usual resources, births, deaths, marriages, property records, enlistment records, etc. and family anecdotes, the well ran dry. So to be brutal, he pretty much makes up the rest. He doesn't hide the fact. He calls it speculation and it works like this. I can see my great-grandfather perhaps walking down this street; maybe he meets his friend so and so ( I'm sure they would have been known to each other). Maybe the conversation went like this... The whole book is full of this - I can only imagine how they felt or what they thought. Well, yes, I guess so since there are no papers or diaries that tell us. On top of all of that, the language is dry as dust and sophomoric. Very disappointing. Don't bother.

  17. 4 out of 5

    C.E. G

    Over the past few years, I have been really interested in genealogy as an accountability practice for white people, so when I saw a review for this book, I thought I might really like it. The premise of the book sounded interesting and important - the author is the descendant of a KKK member who participated in an attempted overthrow of the government in New Orleans in the late 1800s, and this book purportedly looks at that history and the author's connection to it. Admittedly, I did not finish Over the past few years, I have been really interested in genealogy as an accountability practice for white people, so when I saw a review for this book, I thought I might really like it. The premise of the book sounded interesting and important - the author is the descendant of a KKK member who participated in an attempted overthrow of the government in New Orleans in the late 1800s, and this book purportedly looks at that history and the author's connection to it. Admittedly, I did not finish the book before I lost interest/it was deleted off my Kobo because it was due back to the library, but I did read most of it and what I did read felt pretty uncomfortable at times. He didn't reflect very meaningfully about what this legacy of white supremacy meant to him as a descendant, which was the part I was really interested in as a reader. What's more, I thought he over-empathized with the Klansman, mentioning multiple times how he felt sorry for him. He also frequently wrote musings in the voice of his ancestor, unnecessarily putting words to the racist thoughts he imagined that ancestor might have. The one criticism I see in a lot of other Goodreads reviews that I disagree with, though, is the complaint that a lot of this book is speculation. Speculation is a normal part of genealogy, in my opinion! If you don't have famous ancestors or ancestors who kept a lot of written records, a lot of ancestral research is just going to be learning about the community in that time period and speculating that your ancestor may have had similar experiences. Finding a journal from an ancestor or finding newspaper articles about them is a goldmine in genealogy research, but something that most of us won't find for most ancestors. I thought it was completely fine that Ball used journals from other white people at the time to speculate about what his ancestor might have thought.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This book takes some getting used to - the author's tone is blunt and tongue in cheek. He has a lot of restraint in how he punctuates his stories with his under-the-breath side comments that make the reader uneasy. He ends the prologue saying basically “the status quo tribal nature of whiteness is normal.” And nothing else... ? Wait what? I guess it keeps you reading. 150 pages in he finally turns to the reader to say “what would you do?” Is this to remind you not to judge from our bird's eye vie This book takes some getting used to - the author's tone is blunt and tongue in cheek. He has a lot of restraint in how he punctuates his stories with his under-the-breath side comments that make the reader uneasy. He ends the prologue saying basically “the status quo tribal nature of whiteness is normal.” And nothing else... ? Wait what? I guess it keeps you reading. 150 pages in he finally turns to the reader to say “what would you do?” Is this to remind you not to judge from our bird's eye view? To remind us that we are all just people of our times? It’s still hard to get a read on how to feel about this book, but regardless it is a well researched, fascinating story of our history: knowing makes us better. This book filled gaps in history for me: in particular, it taught me about Reconstruction, it’s failure and calculated end in Louisiana, and the codification of segregation in the south. The White League literally became the Army National Guard and the federal oversight of Reconstruction was calculated to pull out as part of a deal to put Rutheford B. Hays in office. I don't remember it being that obvious in history class. Right at the end, the author spends just a single paragraph to discuss the myth of the individual, a distinctly American sentiment. Should we pay for the sins of our fathers? I think he implies that we should; we make our own lives, yes, but in circumstances that were pre-determined by history before us. I would have liked to explore this thought more. "In our time, we scorn the White Camellia and feel morally superior to it. And we nevertheless bathe ourselves in the comfort and control that Constant (the book's subject) and his comrades leave as their bequest." This is the core of the book, which is an important singular message.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    “White opinion acknowledges the rampage, and then washes the bloody sheets.” This was a compelling, illuminating examination of a man’s exploration of his own family’s ties to the birth of the KKK in post-Civil War Louisiana. A blistering family history and meditation on the past, but also an effective history on the white suprematist movement in America, New Orleans as a city, the Civil War, and especially Reconstruction (which, in reading this, did I learn how terrible and incomplete my educati “White opinion acknowledges the rampage, and then washes the bloody sheets.” This was a compelling, illuminating examination of a man’s exploration of his own family’s ties to the birth of the KKK in post-Civil War Louisiana. A blistering family history and meditation on the past, but also an effective history on the white suprematist movement in America, New Orleans as a city, the Civil War, and especially Reconstruction (which, in reading this, did I learn how terrible and incomplete my education on that period was). Recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I understand that the story is told from a family oral tradition, but man, the constant lack of information is frustrating. "I think", "I believe", and "probably" should not be used in nonfiction this much. The parts that are verifiable like the Battle of Canal Street are very engrossing, but this one is a mess. Had the author used his family history as a jumping off point to tell the objectively fascinating story of New Orleans pre and post Civil War, this would have been a much better book. I understand that the story is told from a family oral tradition, but man, the constant lack of information is frustrating. "I think", "I believe", and "probably" should not be used in nonfiction this much. The parts that are verifiable like the Battle of Canal Street are very engrossing, but this one is a mess. Had the author used his family history as a jumping off point to tell the objectively fascinating story of New Orleans pre and post Civil War, this would have been a much better book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kasey

    A painful but necessary read for white Americans. Forces a reckoning about the actions of our ancestors in creating the white supremacist state. From an academic standpoint, I quibble somewhat with the theories of the unconscious brought up towards the end of the book, and the narrative of the microhistories began to feel overly repetitive, but it's a heavily detailed look into a little discussed section of american history. A painful but necessary read for white Americans. Forces a reckoning about the actions of our ancestors in creating the white supremacist state. From an academic standpoint, I quibble somewhat with the theories of the unconscious brought up towards the end of the book, and the narrative of the microhistories began to feel overly repetitive, but it's a heavily detailed look into a little discussed section of american history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Judy G

    this is a very difficult book to read It is about the genesis and growth of white supremacy at the expense of african americans called in these times before during just after the Civil War negroes. It is written by a descendant of a man in New Orleans who hated those who were not White and did in fact kill and do other harm to the negroes until he died. The man Constant Legourge (not sure of the spelling) was the great grandfather of this author. It is not an easy thing to do to write this .... H this is a very difficult book to read It is about the genesis and growth of white supremacy at the expense of african americans called in these times before during just after the Civil War negroes. It is written by a descendant of a man in New Orleans who hated those who were not White and did in fact kill and do other harm to the negroes until he died. The man Constant Legourge (not sure of the spelling) was the great grandfather of this author. It is not an easy thing to do to write this .... Here we read about hate criminality murder politicians and everything that is white supremacy and the ends these people will go to to kill those they hate. there is no white supremacy movements witthout hatred violence murder rape rage and the cause of it all Entitlement. -- to b continued....

  23. 5 out of 5

    Molly Huff

    The Life of a Klansman is a compelling story of one KKK member's life, told by his descendant on a quest to rectify the demons of his family's past with the demons of our society that continues to rend our unity today. The ultimate companion piece to BlackkKlansman, The Life of a Klansman is honest, gripping, and utterly without hubris or conceit. Absolutely worth a read. The Life of a Klansman is a compelling story of one KKK member's life, told by his descendant on a quest to rectify the demons of his family's past with the demons of our society that continues to rend our unity today. The ultimate companion piece to BlackkKlansman, The Life of a Klansman is honest, gripping, and utterly without hubris or conceit. Absolutely worth a read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Benja

    uses the story/lens of his family as history of New Orleans and Louisiana pre/during/post Civil War and reflections on whiteness in present day. i thought it was very well done

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve Smits

    Author used a great-grandparent Klansman as the means to tell the story of the rise of white supremacist militancy in the south after the Civil War, certainly a story worth telling. The problem for me was he knew very little about this man so resorted to considerable speculation about what Constant Lecorgne "might have or proably did", "must have known" and so forth. I found this distracting. The writing I found at times to be poor, frequently in a tone suitable for high school sophomores. Author used a great-grandparent Klansman as the means to tell the story of the rise of white supremacist militancy in the south after the Civil War, certainly a story worth telling. The problem for me was he knew very little about this man so resorted to considerable speculation about what Constant Lecorgne "might have or proably did", "must have known" and so forth. I found this distracting. The writing I found at times to be poor, frequently in a tone suitable for high school sophomores.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marie Cohen

    Really interesting history but TERRIBLE editorial comments and attempts to impute to the author's ancestor actions that are not supported by facts and especially feelings. Offensive repeated use of the N-word in order to portray the alleged thinking of this ancestor. Clearly the author wanted his ancestor to be as racist and evil as possible so that he could feel even more guilt. It was almost like he got some kind of perverse pleasure out if it, perhaps satisfying his own subconscious racism? I Really interesting history but TERRIBLE editorial comments and attempts to impute to the author's ancestor actions that are not supported by facts and especially feelings. Offensive repeated use of the N-word in order to portray the alleged thinking of this ancestor. Clearly the author wanted his ancestor to be as racist and evil as possible so that he could feel even more guilt. It was almost like he got some kind of perverse pleasure out if it, perhaps satisfying his own subconscious racism? I kept reading to the end because the history was so interesting. I had never read about New Orleans in the time of Reconstruction and to read about voter suppression efforts by White supremacists was uncannily timely during the aftermath of the 2020 election. The facts presented about racism and white supremacy are so powerful that the author's editorial comments actually detract from the effect by distracting the reader. He just does not know enough about his relative. His story of the relative would have made a really good magazine article. The story of New Orleans and Reconstruction, minus the author's editorializing, would have made a great book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zach Feig

    By the author's calculation 50% of living whites are a direct descendant of a member of the Klu Klux Klan. I am unlikely to ever find out if I'm a member of that 50%, but regardless of my own ancestry, Edward Ball makes clear but the crimes committed by his ancestors were done with all of us in mind. This book lays out the necessary struggle of every white American. By the author's calculation 50% of living whites are a direct descendant of a member of the Klu Klux Klan. I am unlikely to ever find out if I'm a member of that 50%, but regardless of my own ancestry, Edward Ball makes clear but the crimes committed by his ancestors were done with all of us in mind. This book lays out the necessary struggle of every white American.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mick Chorba

    Ball brings us into the world of reconstruction era New Orleans. At times it all seems distant, strange and remote, then there are moments of revelation. Our world of 2020 is similar in many ways and the roots of white supremacy and racism are revealed via systematic, thorough, and exhaustive research. The voice of the author is honest and speaks for all of us as a reminder that things are the way they are for a reason. I really enjoyed this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this nonfiction ARC. I had not yet read Ball’s previous work, Slaves in the Family, but decided to jump in with this title. I found the book enlightening regarding the origins of white supremacy and the KKK and I do think the author is brave in a way to dig into such an unsavory and unsettling part of his ancestry. As he states, I’m sure many could dig into their family’s backgrounds and find similar ancestors. That said, I didn’t enjoy his sty Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this nonfiction ARC. I had not yet read Ball’s previous work, Slaves in the Family, but decided to jump in with this title. I found the book enlightening regarding the origins of white supremacy and the KKK and I do think the author is brave in a way to dig into such an unsavory and unsettling part of his ancestry. As he states, I’m sure many could dig into their family’s backgrounds and find similar ancestors. That said, I didn’t enjoy his style of writing. Although factual, I didn’t like his continuous reminders that he doesn’t really know this fact or that, or whether his relative was in this place or that, but feels like he could have been. It gave the book too much of a speculative quality. And even though he tries to explain it away, I did find him TOO neutral about his ancestor’s actions.

  30. 5 out of 5

    R.L. Bailey

    A personal tale that applies to many of us. Ball looks at the history of hate in America. How family members can appear loving yet hate those of color is approached in a honest and truthful way.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.