The Ku Klux Klan at Home in Hillsdale

Aífe Murray

Abstract


In “The Ku Klux Klan at Home in Hillsdale,” author Aífe Murray travels to Bergen County to reckon with a dramatic set of events that occurred during her father’s Hillsdale youth when his family was attacked by the Second Ku Klux Klan; long-held by historians as this country’s most powerful far right movement. Through the author’s quest (including interviews with her father’s contemporaries on both sides of the Klan equation), she uncovers a Klan story that, in artifacts and acts, has been preserved within a larger, more common frame of America’s failure to come to terms with what occurred in the early 20th century. Within the long shadow of all-American terrorism, a tale is revealed of shifting power in the Pascack Valley with a local KKK populated by community leaders fearing changes that included Catholic encroachment. After the Klan’s demise, some victims, refusing to forget, kept the story alive while living beside their former terrorizers. The author notes that a mass movement of millions of otherwise ordinary white Protestants should be remembered not only for its legacy of terror (with which Americans continue to wrestle) but for how their fires forged an unintended consequence: subsequent storytellers, historians, and resistors like her father who made a life of civil rights activism.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14713/njs.v3i2.87

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