Harriet says, This is the second book I have read recently dealing with the period after World War I. The Ku Klux Klan became prominent in middle America during the early 1920s. The ascension of a charlatan as the Grand Dragon in Indiana was part of a plan by the KKK to rule the country. However, the rape and eventual death of a young woman became the downfall of the Grand Dragon and the movement. A grisly tale, but an important reminder that the history of our country has not always been glorious.
The Roaring Twenties–the Jazz Age–has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.
Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.