Northern readers inundated with Klan outrage stories

“[From its first appearance in 1868] the outrage story, a matter-of-fact newspaper account of Ku Klux Klan violence in the South, remained the most common means by which Northern readers engaged with the Klan….

“A New York Tribune correspondent reporting from Raleigh, North Carolina…had arrived ‘prepared to find that the stories which have reached the North were greatly exaggerated; but the reality seems to be that the one-tenth part has not been told….Take your idea of Ku-Klux outrages. Whip your man or woman half to death, string up your victim to a tree and let him hang for days, bring to mind the worst case of rape you have ever heard of. [Then] multiply these instances by a hundred and throw in every form of torture and cruelty which ingenuity can suggest, with a few thousand lesser whippings which separately count for little, and you will get some idea of the state of affairs in North Carolina.’

“The constant, predictable appearance of [such] stories spoke to the essential deviance of Southern white society. Klan attacks became the raw materials out of which Northerners fashioned an image of a backward, bloody and dangerous South.”

— From “Stories of the South: Race and the Reconstruction of Southern Identity, 1865-1915″ by K. Stephen Prince (2014)

 

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