tv Lectures in History Edward Ball Life of a Klansman CSPAN October 12, 2021 11:06pm-12:50am EDT
bestselling author edward ball talks about his book'life of a klansman: a family history in white supremacy'. he also looks at why a new african american history museum is being built in charleston, south carolina. may or do you want to welcome once again edward ball to our classroom? >> indeed, thank you very much. i'm so grateful and honored that edward ball has so generously given his time to our class today. you [inaudible] as you know, it's the reason and it's such a
wonderful example of the power at work. a power of a great book. having written the book -- only for having known about the book and having read the book, the international african american museum would not be under construction. and it's well under construction, and it's finished in june or july of next year. and that's all because of the powerful work and wonderful work. and i'm sure all of you have questions about the book and i hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to sit down with edward and chat to him.
>> for questions or comments? hello, mayor riley, thank you for inviting me to come visit with you all. i'm happy to do a q&a if you like. and i thought it would also be appropriate just to start by reading a couple of pages from this book that you all have had in your hands. and the passage that i think is resonant more than many others in the book is one about the last day of enslavement on one of the plantations in berkeley county. and i thought that i'd read a couple of pages describing that
day, because it's the day when the back of slavery was broken and people breathed the air of liberation in many ways for the first time. a place called limerick plantation, as you may remember from this book, it's 25 miles north of charleston. it's near a branch of the cooper river. the last day of slavery came on february 26th, 1865. william ball, that's the master of the place, sat with a bible in front of him, reading aloud to a few of his people. there were several african americans in the dining room on that day. the morning of sunday, february 26th. the local clergyman had made himself scarce during the fight, it was sunday and everyone in the room,
black and white, knew the and was upon them. before long, a dispatch of greasy yankees, as william's son isaac called them, would arrive in the outside the door. the prayer group numbered around tim, and his sister jane and his wife mary -- and behind the wife in the corner, sat an elderly black woman, the plantation's black matriarch. her family was ranked first among limerick's -- as he brought up william's four sons by his first wife and raised her children by his side. next to heady, stood robert, the butler as well as the brother's companion and valet during
their wartime service. the bible reading is from the book of lamentations. it was a mournful passage about the miserable fate of jerusalem condemned by god for its seasons. she that was great among the nations and princess among the provinces, she weepeth in the night and with tears on her cheeks. for the lord had afflicted her for the multitude of transgressions, according to mary ball. the white people in the room thought the passage should fit their predicament.. .. a week after the victors arrived, this was the spur, as many of us know from sherman's army. they sent raiding parties to the plantation. as william was
reading from the bible, a cavalryman and his company suddenly rode up. the man dismounted, flew open the door, and demanded to talk to the black village. the crowd came from the cabins behind the house. among the group was henry, a nine year old boy, with a broad face and light skin. years later, hand we would recall this day in a letter to mary ball. one woman named sylvia, a seamstress, also came down. the gardener who kept the yard and flowerbeds. and the rest came down and the yankees told the crowd they were free. the ball women, at this time, evidently worried about rape -- throughout the war the confederate press warned that yankees would ravish confederate women. and talked about free black men doing the
same. she and her sister in law, jane, ran upstairs, each put on two heavy dresses, loading themselves down in a way that would frustrate sexual attack. william ball had buried the family's silver in a small house, grabbing the last pieces that were still in the house. put them in cloth bags and put them next to their bodies under petticoats. the yankee soldiers arrived and caroussed to the house. skipping down... the commander of the yankee black company, a colonel, james beecher, came from a family of anti-slavery activists in the north. his half brother, the reverend henry ward beecher, was a pastor in brooklyn. his
half sister was harriet beecher stowe, author of'uncle tom's cabin'.... let's see. a similar theme was repeated in all the ball places, as each place was raided by yankee troops. in the end, the soldier snatched a few hands. the single exception came at buck hall plantation, formerly home to balls cousin. for the buck haul mansion, buildings and crops were burned to the ground. and they freed all the slaves. despite the slaughter of the war, no one, not even buck hall was hurt. and so it was. it was possible to look into the telescope into the past and see how slavery
came to an end. specific places and specific times. and i told that story just now from a diary kept by a woman who lived on this plantation. but elsewhere, i sense a lot of times, for the family made lucas, whose predecessors, great grandparents, had been on that very place, on that very day. and who handed down oral tradition and stories, describing that very day, in terms nearly identical to the ones written down by women who were in that dining room when the yankees showed up on the
lawn. so there's black oral tradition, white written tradition. and they came together to make a fuller portrait. anyway, with that -- have you all got anything on your mind from this book? that you want to raise with me? >> yes sir. i have a couple questions. but i will keep it to one for now. i was just wondering if you can touch on your relationship with previously enslaved african americans with the previous owners. and the dynamic. because i understand [inaudible] indentured servants, rather. but i was wondering if, like, in your experience, if you knew any more on that. >> yeah. i think it was as various as people and families themselves. my best estimate is that one half of emancipated african americans left the
plantations where they were enslaved and staked out new lives elsewhere. in north carolina, or georgia or in eastern tennessee. they fled or they went to spartanburg or somewhere. because they want to get as far as they could from that homeplace. and one half remained on the plantation. and became share crop farmers when the plantations, -- when many of them became chair crop operations. in my experience, talking to dozens of african american families, who have oral tradition about the reconstruction period, is that
their experiences varied. some wanted to remain, if you like, in proximity to their former enslavers. because those white families were the principal source of income and resources and not least, a place to live and the community remained -- african americans, their community, remained largely intact. so they staked out relationships with former enslavers, that were in some ways, had points of resemblance to the ones that they had just broken by freeing themselves. on the other hand, there were families who detested with the
had been forced to experience. and wanted to get as far away as they could. so i think it varied, taylor. >> thank you. >> sure. >> hello, mr. ball, i wanted to thank you for coming out. i appreciate your time. i had the pleasure to present my project to my fellow peers last week. and this research consisted of -- >> up, we lost you, melanie. >> oh, sorry. i don't know why it is muting. i had the pleasure to share with my fellow colleagues, my project. i wanted to touch on your research. and i want to applaud you, i applaud you on how deep
you went in with your history. and the accuracy of the history. i wanted to ask questions about, like, research in general. i know it's a general question. but i found it difficult, you know, doing this research. >> right. >> and i had to find five people, and i only had one person that i could really find more information on. so how did you go about, the in-depth, all that research you did throughout the book? how would you explain that process? all of that? >> you had five people from what period that you had to research? >> i believe the census that i looked at would be from 18 forties up until the 18 fifties. because i have some sources here, probably in that range. not that accurate. but. ..
>> well, i have the advantage of three and a half years of full-time labor and i was able to go to archives that hold the papers of the plantations that i wrote about as well as the papers of white families who controlled hundreds of other plantations. but a key was a piece of good fortune, being able to identify where an african american family lived in slavery. and if you can do that, using oral tradition, or
circumstantial evidence from the year 1870 and 1865 and i can describe the exact evidence. you can, with some luck, find the papers of someone who enslaved given family, which then might have anecdotal stories about enslaved individuals. it was painstaking to accomplish. but around 1870, you know, melanie, the census records show for the first time, the use of surnames by african americans. the first use of surname by african americans. and using the
surname's, say you have the name, betty hampton, you could be lucky enough to find in the plantation records, from five years earlier, lists of enslaved people that include betty and her children. and using the census records, which shows the name hampton and betty and her children, you match these records to the plantation records of slaves. that was the crux of what the book slaves in the family did. there's other places where you can find the magic key. others are the records of the freedmen's bureau. that was established in 1862 to establish freedom. for african
americans. freed people used -- like, the freedman's bank. in which they document their family history as a way of applying for a loan or a bank account. and these records are also quite good. so there's a lot more to it. but those are the two magic keys that lead you back further into the past. >> all right, thank you, i'll take that into consideration for my final. thank you. >> sure, sure. >> a little more context. each
student was assigned, five or so names of workers, african american workers at this factory. they were given the names and maybe a connection to either a city directory or a census record. >> okay. >> then they were charged with building a profile based on mostly ancestry. com research. >> yes. >> and i think all of us struggled with it tremendously. when we were able to make the connections, i think there was some fabulous revelations that were made. but it just gave us a little window into -- it's a edward ball inspired project, frankly. it gave us a little window into the work that you did. >> yeah. >> not so long ago. >> right. i understand. ancestry is a marvelous
resource. and yet the public records that you are able to retrieve at your fingertips now are sometimes inadequate to constructing family narratives. they are very partial. they are a first step in constructing family narratives, with some flesh on it. it does require talking face to face with folks. finding folks that have family memories from 100 years ago. and with their participation in collaboration, using those oral traditions to make a flesh and blood family history. >> if it's okay, i'd like to
ask another question. >> of course. >> through my reading, i kept referencing back to whatever you mentioned, about the plantations [inaudible]. i was wondering if you could remember, like, have you remembered anything significant that happened, that stood out to you? about monk's corner]? >> wow, yeah. monk's corner was 150 years ago a crossroads and it was a place where mr. monk had a general store. at the corner of what is now, what, 51 and -- >> highway 52.
>> yes, that's where it was. but that was 250 years ago. a lot of black folks leaving the plantations, near cooper river settled along and around what is now 52 and were able to acquire homesteads at some time from the former slave owners on the west branch of the cooper river. you know the geography as well as everybody, so you can picture what i'm talking about. one of the things that is exceptional about this history, along the cooper river, is the fact that it survived at all. you know that when the
waiting parties from the union army came in from charleston and went up the ashley river, and burned most of the plantations along the ashley river -- whereas, they went up the cooper river and they did not burn -- they only burned one. the one i described in the reading, buck hall. and most of the others survived.. .. as a consequence, i think that the outcome is somewhat more stable on the cooper river after the
war. i don't have a hair raising anecdote that i can talk to you about, taylor. and i'm not inclined to make one up. [laughs] but it's interesting that monk's corner was one thing, 250 years ago, and it is now something else. is monk's corner predominantly african american? half african american, half white? >> i would say around 50/50. some sections predominantly african american. >> right. i think that fact states from right after the civil war, when african americans left the plantation,
and established new lives. some of the white folks who owned plantations on the west branch, bordering monk's corner -- they were not eager to sell little parcels of land to african americans. and some were. and that was, again, a matter of chance. a matter of family disposition. how this white family experienced their loss of status and the next white family experienced their loss of status, whether they wanted to help some of the african american families that they had enslaved, or not. and -- so
yeah, those are just some of the -- some thoughts, here and there, about monk's corner. >> thank you. >> whenever i was reading it, i was reading about the places that didn't get burned down, and i was thinking about other plantations. there's a huge one, right down in the corner, and i didn't know if anything had affected them, gibby's plantation. just because it's so large. and was there some kind of backlash? i don't know specifically. >> how many were there? i mean, there were 50 plantations. they were up and down the cooper river on either side. each one was a community and each one had a different experience.
thank you really appreciated it. >> sure, sure, a pleasure. >> how are you? >> pretty good. >> when i was reading your book i noticed you didn't have a lot of the slaves by their master and run and they put down the birthday of their illegitimate child, they just left a blank. so, was it sometimes or not trace the history of the family, especially those with some of the back descendants. they were trying to trace them. tough. i will -- there were perhaps dozens of african-american families with whom our white families shared blood because of
because of forced sex on the plantation. we all know, but this for white folks, is a difficult subject is a lot of denial, or ongoing us to look at in the face. i decided to work on this book i began to meet african american family after african american, family who had oral traditions, you know my great great grandfather came from this particular plantation. i wanted to and yet for the reasons you described, there are few paper trails that you can follow that leads to the
coupling's of a white in slave or antonin sleeved woman. and so there are many african american families who know who their white cousins might be and there is a physical evidence trail. i knew that i wanted to write about some of the families, that had this experience. in this oral tradition. with their collaboration, and yet i knew that i could only rate about those families if i had enough persuasive evidence that would convince, a reader that our family was related. so i was able in a case of two
families to compile enough circumstantial evidence and oral tradition, and odd bits of paper evidence, that confirmed. they consist in the same things is this. the specifics, of the researcher. are almost so obscure. there been a plantation master named james ball, in the record show that he's not married. he's living on a place called -- plantation. there's a woman on the place, named harriet and harriet's has a son and james ball, sells the plantation, it buys another, place in moves to it. in the only person, according to the paper on the records,
that goes with him is harriet and her son. and they resettle there. and furthermore he dies and the record shows that he leaves 500 dollars to harriet. into no other african american. so things like that, which is circumstantial evidence, but persuasive. in the case of a couple of, families i would find a photograph of james ball, and of family in berkeley county. i had a photograph of their great grandfather, who was reported to be the son. i compared these two photographs and there was strong family resemblance. so it's a long answer to your question, but it was very difficult to excavate.
the details of this very painful history. but, i think that, that's it it's in the end it does help, both black folks and white folks. to come to terms, with the real deal. the real story of our history. by talking about these stories honestly. thank you. what's it like, finding out the information finding about kate wilson and her connections to
your family? >> you remember kate wilson. she was the, matriarch if i'm not mistaken. she was a case of like the one i was just describing, with james ball. her in flavor, was a man called john halle stint, who is a man and a cousin in the ball family, he was not married to a white woman. and kate wilson, was his partner if you like. on a place called l wood plantation. and the west branch i think. and what's extraordinary, about these, two key wilson and john, is they had eight children, over a period of 25 years.
this was a relationship that it's not a relationship you could say was consensual you know, a relationship that kate wilson undertook with her willingness and a relationship characterized by love. it has to be described in a complicated way. but the evidence suggested it was not a relationship that was based upon sexual assault. if it survived for 25 years, and produced a children, in these eight children received money and education, from their
father, it's it's an interesting and complicated example, of the interracial relationships, that evolved during slavery. i think it was deep thomas, that's the way i talked about it. and i explored this relationship with the african american family, who in a lot of detail so. >> sounds like the subject of another book. >> yes it does doesn't it. >> yes. how did white people feel about that? -- black people have often been
the subject of -- how did wait, people how is that handled? you know white families? >> well, i think it was handled in a variety of ways but there are two templates to model, that come to mind. one is there is a white couple, a slave owning couple in the big house, there were 50 african americans who lived adjacent to the big house. the husband in that white couple is of a personality that wishes to avail himself, of sexual pleasure.
and, he does so, either by force, or threat. or some kind of bargaining quid pro quo relationship, with women on the sleeve street, meanwhile his wife, the white wife. is probably aware of her husband's nighttime, perhaps he's not doing this all, the time but perhaps he actually establishes a second family on the plantation. and it sounds like this is one template to me. the wife is aware of it and it's just an awful kind of poison circulating in the
household. in the way household. not to mention on the sleeves. the other template is, that young sons, this is probably more common, the young sons of the white landowners, often had their first sexual experiences, at 16 17 year old man, with enslaved women. that was the kind of institutional aspects of the slave master relationship. that a young white man, became sexually apprentice. or took advantage of you black women on the plantation, for his own sexual experience. as we know, from our own
memories and history of the south, white women were not for generations and generations, allowed to be sexually active. so young white men are forbidden from socially and many other ways, forbidden from sexual love, with white women. and, enslaved african american women, are often the mothers of children. we all know the story of thurman. his experience resembles this is template almost exactly. he was an 18 year old, kid and father to child with one of the
cooks, in the family home. and, that's the way it worked. that's the way it worked. i think those are the two remaining templates. any other questions? >> you guys want to talk about the hot. stuff you want to talk about the hot stuff. you want to talk about the real nitty-gritty. >> i have a question. . >> yes. >> in your book, i read, that a lot of the slaves, did not take after the name once they were freed. it said in the book for the most part, they were treated pretty well. they were educated. so i was wondering, why you think a lot of the slaves did
not take on your family name? >> well, the former, the people are formerly enslaved, we're not universally as you say treated well. in certainly not universally educated. but there is this pattern, that a lot of african americans did not carry this or names of their former in sleeve or's. in other parts of the south and alabama and mississippi it's much more common that african americans did carry the former names of their slivers. i think the way it involved is this. there is a tradition at the ball family that goes as follows. the biggest slave master at the end of the civil war, he own 12
plantations, and enslaved 900 people. , and he did not actually, he actually presented himself, two huge meetings, of the former slaves, and he did not take my name. perhaps he did this in a strict way, or perhaps he was more gentle about a request. i just don't know. but his desire was, that former slaves do not carry the name ball. , so and 95% of the cases, former ball slaves do not carry the name ball, there's about one in 20, that did use the name ball. i think, this is actually
something that's more common than generally acknowledge throughout the south. the conventional understanding is that african americans carry the names of their former enslavers. but i don't believe it's it's why the true. because this was a point, in the life of a man and a woman, when they had this enormous, sense of responsibility, and they could select a name of their own choosing. and use it publicly. and use it legally. and, share with their children. and so millions of african americans, chose names, in the case of the low country, families, you will see, by looking at the lists of sheer
hop contracts, that, people chose surname,'s being used by white folks elsewhere. but, they did not choose surname's that came from the family of their former in slave. or they might have chose the name simmons of way family who lived 25 miles away, whom they had some regard for. they might choose the name of and son, a white family they had some regard for. so that's how it, that's when they that it worked. >> thank you. >> sure. sure >> i might have time for one more quick question before we move to take a break. and invite the larger public
into the question. anyone with a final question? >> okay, was the african american genealogy -- american family before 1865? >> that's a good question. and i am optimistic that it will encourage hundreds, if not thousands of people to investigate their family history. i know a woman who -- she has in her mind, she knows what's records need to be retrieved, in order to make it possible for an african american to investigate their family history. i think it might have, a
beneficial effect. because they have said, i think i repeat this perhaps, a bit heavily. to investigate, your family history, in the most difficult areas, hence a therapeutic effect. it gives an unusual and unexpected strength, to learn about the hard parts of one's family history. i'm describing the experience of those african americans who, find time in the will to do this, as well as white folks, who want to look into the hard
parts of their family narrative. it has a therapeutic effect. so i'm optimistic that the family history center, will help. >> i am too. thank you so much for your generous time. this part of the afternoon we will take a break. and be back, at about 3:30. >> that's right. take about a five or six minute break. we will come back, and get started at 3:30. >> super. >> sure, my pleasure. >> wonderful. . >> good afternoon and welcome to our class. welcome back to our class.
we are delighted to have all of you with us, and today for a third special, with their distinguished historian who is return to our class. we are introducing today's guest speaker, i'd like to take a moment to share some -- after months long nationwide courage, i'm delighted to share the news that the chief executive offer of the international of -- colonel masters is an experienced executive, and educator, with a proven track writer occurred with his organizational leadership, with program development project
management. it's -- it's necessary important step, and a full-time professional staff, who takes full ownership of the museum. he could never have gotten this far, without the mini contributions of the dedicated fabulous museum staff. thank you so much. i wanted to welcome authored edward baltic class today. edward has generously offered to have sessions with us, this semester. but his book won the 1998 national walk of -- the international african american museum. his book, opened my eyes, my heart and my mind history.
that i did not previously. no and the history of our country that you may not know. in the five weeks we will send on the 21 year quest, of this long history, our country's true history. to tell where the history occurred. and i must say that the museum, is an extraordinary team of dedicated workers and benefactor's and staff, writing this book has been a great service, and for years to come. thank you very much.
-- edward will discuss his latest book. life of a clansmen has evolved in his subjects of slaves in his family. the mechanisms of ways supremacy of america, it tells a story of a lawyer, of the ku klux klan, in louisiana, who took up the cause of radical racism, many years after the civil war. this clansmen, and the other side of his family, painted a portrait, of his family's anti black notion. it's part history, in part memoir. which is personally detailed, edward welcome back. thanks for being. here >> thank you, it's good to
be with you. thank you for this invitation. to talk once again to a wide circle of your admirers, and to join in looking at the path in the way that it has influence on the president. i'm not in charleston, i'm in connecticut where i live. i'm not in the holy city. but my heart is with you. and i wish i could be with you. when the epidemic finally lifts, i will make my reservations immediately, to come spend some time once again. i want to talk today about the
ku klux klan, the ku klux klan, the phrase that my grandparents generation used in louisiana, to refer to the group the militias, the ku klux klan, which are words that show familiarity, that only people who knew actual marauders, in the ways to premise is movement, could use as. he members of the ku klux klan, from 150 years ago, when they first came together, did not see themselves as founders of a movement. they would not have thought that their great great grandchildren, would be talking about. it not only are we talking about it, the angry and ignorance and vicious gangs who describes them help and hurt and sometimes kill people.
not only are we talking about it but we're circulating ideas that recall ideas of the ku klux klan and we are perpetrating acts that resemble those carried out, by the first clan. i hope you can see some pictures on the screen. let me take you to el paso, texas in august of 2019, a marauder, a white terrorist killed 22 people, ruining the lives of hundreds. this marauder rights a manifesto that talks about white supremacy as his guiding idea. i will take you to charlottesville, virginia, august of 2017, white supremacists took over the
city, beat up a lot of people, killed one person, these people used language the klansman once coined and symbol that announced white racial identity, the number 14 is an apparently new symbol or sign the refers to a creed that is housed in a sentence, the 14 word manifesto by david lane, founder of a supremacist cell in the 19 eighties called the order, 14 word sentence, we must secure the existence of our people in the future for white children. we are all familiar with the events of june of 2015 at a manual a.m. e on calhoun street, the 11 people there had
the books open at the prayer meeting to the parable as the seller, as you so so shall you reap. the killer in that massacre also wrote a manifesto calling for a separate white nation. let's go to january 6th, 2021, in the us fred fiumano where a marauding mob carried white supremacist symbols during the storming of the capital. the assault on the capital was not a clan operation but it drew energies from the barely submerged river of white supremacist thought and action that originated with the ku klux klan.
we are in a moment or a phase which has lasted several years that is punctuated by violent white supremacy. since 2015, some 250 people have died in white supremacist violence that announces itself is racial vengeance and that does not include police killings of unarmed african-americans, the status of those killings in the discussion of racial identity can be argued. in recent years it seemed to me like a return, remembrance of things past that seem familiar despite the grotesque uniqueness of these many acts. why are these things familiar? today if we tell a story about where it all began when i was a boy i lived for a lot of years
in louisiana in new orleans. that the home of my mother's family. my mother's family lived in new orleans for 200 years. my father's family are all from charleston and they have been there for 300 years. i lived with my family in charleston a different part of my childhood in new orleans my mother's family remain plain people, clerks, tradesmen, schoolteachers, salesmen, carpenters, nurses. nobody at all of the higher education for 150 years until the 1970s so when my family arrived in new orleans when i
was a child of about 10 we moved in with my grandmother into her bungalow which was raised up against the floods that plague new orleans, near tulane university if you know the city and living with my grandmother was a woman named mod, my grandmother's sister, mod lacorn. it was with on to mod that i first learned about our klansman. in the south in many families whether white or black or mixed-race there is often a family historian. on to mod was that person. she was about 75 when i first paid attention, she was a schoolteacher, she was unmarried, never married, she wore hornrimmed glasses and had a closet of demon dresses with
longsleeve come here, boy, let me tell you about our people. our people, they came from britney on the west coast of france, the first man was called eve lacorn and was a sailor in the boy in's maybe it as you learn in school napoleon was involved in war from one end of years to the other, eve was one of his junior officers so the emperor napoleon sent of the teller of ships to the caribbean because there was an uprising in the place they now call haiti. when the ship got off, eve got off and never got back on and put down roots here. he found himself the bride who was about 19 named marguerite's orang. this is eve the corn's grave
and his signature shortly after he arrived in new orleans in 1820. after this man married marguerite he married himself into a fine creole family who had this plantation on the mississippi river but he married one of the daughters was from a branch less wealthy than the other branch and her branch of the family within decline so they moved into a little creole cottage in the french quarter and had 5 children and my aunt mod or he, had 5 children and among them was my grandfather constant
acorn. he was redeemer. redemption, as she said. that was after the civil war when the colored people had taken over the state and restarting businesses, acting as though everything was theirs and they were voting the redemption was after the time they called reconstruction, that awful time. reconstruction was not when the south tried to build itself up again after the war between the states. reconstruction is when they put colored people in seats of power. redemption were the people who resist that. my grandfather constant was redeemer. he wanted to restore white supremacy. he got tied up in that white league.
the white league, the only difference between the whiteley and the ku klux klan was the cuckoo express he could've and the white league were not and thank god for the white league because they put the negro out of the seat of power. so it was from on to mod, the family historian that i first learned about our klansman. 30 years later, mod having died, my parents having died, i'm cleaning out the family house and i find a batch of files labeled lacorn and i begin reading and make a decision to tell the story of our klansman, go back and forth from my home in connecticut to new orleans to look in the archives and i higher a researcher to excavate the documentary record and the story takes shape. constant lacorn was born in 1832 to a french family in new orleans, the second of 3 sons.
his parents, give his older brother the education and constant goes into a trade, brings up a small thin man, nervous and alert with sharp features, skinny nose and beautiful hands and under bite and brow. constant's parents were of the white classes start high and lose their economic advantage. in new orleans his parents were among the one quarter of whites to enslave people but they enslave five people, not 55 one of them was a man named avid. avid, who constant inherited just before the civil war began and then sold because he wanted to build a house and use the
money from the sale of avid to build a house. constant's father dies at age 54 when he is 8 and his mother cannot make the family work. she has five minor children without the five enslaved people that they own. she hires them out, rent them to whites more prosperous than she is and that becomes the family income. at age 24 and 1856 constant married woman named gabriel age 19 and an orphan of french dissent from the caribbean island of martinique. steamboats on the mississippi. as the support approaches in 1860 constant and his wife
gabrielle live in a rented house with a two children, his parents are dead, his mother when she died gave him two of her enslaved people. that will and dina, he sells avid, hold onto dina begins. constant goes to fight for the confederate 3 as to whether white men in louisiana. he and his wife invest in the fight buying confederate bonds and lose all their money is when he comes home after three years he is sick, exhausted and bitter and arrives in the city full of carpetbaggers and with the negroes numerous, now with three children the carpenter lacorn finds his livelihood
woman dina is free and gone. louisiana is occupied by the u.s. army and new orleans is crowded with black freedom people who have left the sugar and cotton plantations north of the city. 350,000 african-americans in louisiana are emancipated. many thousands moved to new orleans and constant, the carpenter, now competes with black craftsman to make a living and does badly. lacorn, my great-great-grandfather felt himself the victim. he saw the new world is anathema and descended into resentment. the occupation government was pro-negro in the coloreds held office seemed to to be a genuine aversion. reconstruction as we call it was the name of the first
attempt to remake the united states as a racially mixed democracy. to some, not least to 4 million back slaves it meant power sharing with whites, perhaps wealth sharing and somewhere in the distance, shared humanity. these fantastical ideas work on radical reconstructions by millions of white opponents met with massive obstruction and violent defiance. that is one of constant's houses. the ku klux klan arose in tennessee in 1866 soon after the end of the civil war and it was a resistance movement. it was an armed militia that wanted to return to a world dominated by whites with only whites in economic and
political authority. the name ku klux klan derives from the greek name for circle and gangs as everyone knows dressing costumes and masks. klansman made a cult of disguise, wearing hoods to avoid identification by the army occupiers. klansman also knew their victims personally and preferred to torment them anonymously. in louisiana the clan used other names, the knights of the white can million was one. the white league another, the innocent a third. in mississippi there was the white line. in north carolina the red shorts. the ku klux klan is as wide as the south for eight years and alongside it there were all those parallel militias i just
named. and earlier disguise of the white brigades was the ranks of volunteer fire companies. volunteer firemen joined in great numbers, confederate veterans joined volunteer fire companies which became overstaffed and armed and were like a kind of bed for the white supremacist movement. constant lacorn's fire company was called home hook and ladder which is made of his former company see of the fourteenth regiment louisiana country. constant took the extreme step and joined this armed resistance. he became a guerrilla fighter who wanted to return the south to white wool and he became a
foot soldier in that campaign. the first major explosion in new orleans occurred in july of 1866 and circumstantial evidence is preponderant the constant lacorn was there. the mechanics institute, a meeting hall for tradesmen during the convention to agitate for the black vote, this was among the fire companies on the scene send by the white mayor to break up this illegal meeting. the shooting started. and assault of the clan, the in sympathy and clan consisting of fire companies, ranks of unnamed gangss, left 200 dead according to one newspaper editor who was witness to the events and it was a massacre about voting rights. it is relevant to observe much
of the fight during the election of 2020 was about who gets to vote, whose votes are counted, especially when it is black people who are voting. during the next eight years evidence shows lacorn and $5,000 in the state, all of them known as ku klux klan in the newspapers, rated, marched and 8 people. lacorn seems to have joined a group of the knights of the white chameleon led by a family friend. the knights of the white chameleon were costumed and hooded. they harassed people, conducted night raids, whipped people and carried out individual killings. lacorn and armed gangs of 20 surrounded a police depot in
new orleans. a second group stormed the city's maine armory but failed to overcome its u.s. army defenders. lacorn's gangs held the position and the standoff ensued 4 days with the military camp nearby. if the clan could bring down the louisiana government even for a week than the u.s. army would shore up the new and precarious civil rights laws, forced to withdraw from the state and white might be taken back. the army stormed the building and one man was killed. la corn and the others were charged with treason and violating the ku klux klan act. congress helped -- hoped it would stamp out the white games the clan penalty was five years. the treason penalty was
hanging. constant lacorn was not the only one in the family who fought for white. his cousins, his nephew, his brother-in-law joined him in a coup attempt. in addition several of his french cousins play greater or lesser full, in the treason case the gallows were being argued when a sympathetic white judge dismissed all accounts, freeing lacorn and his co-conspirators as he returned to the street and to the fight. if you believe to have a klansman among your relatives is a strange or deviant thing, think of this.
in 1925, the ku klux klan could claim 5 million members, white and christian. it is likely for publicity reasons that this number was exaggerated. medicine the actual claim membership stood near 4 million. so 4 million klansman living in 1925, if you forward 100 years to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the year 2025, add up to 135 million white americans, 135 million form 50% of the white population of the united states. seen another way that means one of two whites have a family link to the ku klux klan every other white person if he or she knew the names of ancestors and wished to research their lives could produce clan family
memoir. why retrieve from obscurity this bitter inability story about constant lacorn, a foot soldier in the first white militia? i have a personal motive, and that is that it bothers me. it feels like finding a corpse in the bedroom and i am disgusted and ashamed. i had an inkling that my great grand grandfather was a violent supremacist that i did not see until research just what this family member had gotten a lot of thoughtful man, he could write an invoice for his carpentry work with that is about it. and he did not develop the way entitlement which still
circulates but god knows he put poison in that idea and damaged the lives of hundreds. still, for public reasons and not personal reasons, why revive this filthy story and bring it back? one reason is to try to harness the sale of l acorn and repurpose it in some hope of shining a light on steps forward. 50 years after the end of the civil rights movement and the white and black divide nationally is caustic and fresh and that is because the us possesses a tragic history, some of which white americans tend to be unaware of. in fact much of this tragic history lies in repressed parts of our collective memory.
many people find it uncomfortable to speak about whiteness. we dislike as whites being labeled members of the race, we dislike acknowledging that racist power and that is because in part the ku klux klan people like lacorn succeeded, they made whiteness in norm, part of the atmosphere. if you think that i am flattening all difference, making white people the same as klansman, i do not want to do that. however, i do have the idea that there is white supremacy, violent white supremacy and all the way across the spectrum there is something kinder and gentler, father knows best whiteness, it is atmospheric and it is permeating the social common as i stop talking which will be in one minute someone is going to ask what can i do, what can be done about white
supremacy and one answer is uncomfortable and that is to see it is not an alien phenomenon but is something familiar. perhaps in my case something familial. i wrote this book "life of a klansman" to see whiteness as something familial and for other reasons. i do not think we are in the midst of a return to the barbarism of race wars. it is reason to be optimistic. last summer the mass marches showed the country something new. after the killing of george floyd, 20 million people demonstrated for weeks or months. among the marchers were perhaps one third of them white people,
this goes without precedent. certain civil rights campaigns in 1966, 7, 8 when they involve participation of whites it was one in 10. last summer the whites who marched are whites who may be seeing their own racial identity in a new way and that is reason for optimism. i do have reason to hope and as my aunt mod told me about the redemption my grandfather constant lacorn, he was a redeemer, redemption was a return to order. we had had since mid-january a kind of condition, the end of the previous administration was a pivot point, possibly a redemptive turn, a redemption that is beginning to gather strength and i hope the white
militias and their silent supporters are going to be turned back and the guys are pushed back underground beneath the surface. thank you all very much for taking this walk with me. thank you very much for inviting me to talk. that story i just told is in this book which is 6 months old now or something like that and it is better told than the way it is told in that book. so by this book.
if it were didn't make that clear, "life of a klansman," thank you so much. generously agreed to answer questions and at this point i would like to invite any of our guests to put questions into the chat and i will do my best to relay those to edward. we are waiting here. talk a little bit about the relationship with the current progress on any level in terms of the research and what those projects what it meant to you personally? >> sure. my book slaves in the family
was published 23 years ago and tells the story of the ball family of charleston and their 25 rice plantations and stories of ten african-american families whose ancestors had once enslaved on their rice plantations north of charleston. when i wrote that book i practically swam in a river of source material, 10,000 pages of records that survived from this slave dynasty if you will allow me to use that expression. allowing me to crumble the lines of hundreds of people who
lived without the benefit of the literacy or inscribing their own as a's. i started to research the book "life of a klansman" which tells the story of one man in my mother's family in new orleans, in louisiana. like 99% of society, his family left very few paper records that chronicle their experiences. there was no archive and i only had a few scraps of paper to distinguish this man so i had to decide i wanted to write his story and i began writing it as a novel because i thought faced
with what you might call the silence of the archive i thought i would have to write it as fiction. not only were they not very good, 100 pages but at a certain point i realized the story had more grip as nonfiction, as history because people crave the real. i had to write it as nonfiction to do justice to the extraordinary things that i was beginning to uncover so i switched to writing a piece of history and this is a biography
if you like, the way it is sold. to do it was to spend hundreds of hours in public records in the state of louisiana in an archive called the historic new orleans collection, the sacramental records of the catholic church diocese of new orleans, an archive collected and held by the new orleans public library, in court records, criminal records, newspaper archives retain some of the very fragile papers published chronicling the events of the clan.
it took 5 years of research with the help of hired research assistants to put together small pieces of narrative content like bits of a mosaic like tiles you can craft into a picture, hundreds of bits of narrative information that i could assemble gradually and painstakingly into narrative content so it was a different research experience and the result is a different story. it is still history but has different routes to it. >> a couple friends were curious about your research assistant and wanted to know
how you went about finding a good research assistant. >> i went to a university in new orleans who teaches in the history department and i said do you have any graduate students who would like to earn a little money and spend a few hundred hours in the library? fortunately, one exceptional exceptional researcher named john bartus who is a more lenny and signed on to the task and -- i'm living in connecticut, coming back and forth in connecticut to new orleans, but
without this man's work i couldn't have written this book and he now teaches at lsu. his first job as a historian, hired by louisiana university, much gratitude for his work excavating the remote parts of this story. i think these are a couple of related questions here. does mister ball believe racism and violent whiteness can be rooted out and healed rather than just pushed back into the geyser and i think somewhat overlapping is patrick's question about what we might do to address polarization in racial terms that was reflected
in the january 6th event? >> those are hard questions. you got me on that metaphor. the underground geyser metaphor. a nice image but it does trap us into seeing white supremacy as a state of nature. it may not be. it may be an acquired ideology. in fact white supremacy had to be entered. i have this theory is that white supremacy has a coherent system of entitlement invented after the civil war when the white racial identity was under threat for the first time.
and reconstruction, kind of reaction, generated the set of ideas, the ideology of white superiority that previously had not been necessary for ruling families to articulate and it is this idea of white entitlement and overlordship that becomes this kind of caustic caustic poison that circulates in public life in the united states for generation after generation and it does i believe it does surface and then disappear, surface and then disappear, when jim crow segregation is
established, comes to a crescendo and the eugenics movement of the teens and 20s is another surge of it. i think that we are in the first and interesting stages of the self-awareness among white people, growing numbers of white people of our white racial identity in a state of awareness that many whites have previously been unwilling to engage in and i think optimistically there is a new
understanding racial identity is not something possessed only by people of color but possessed also by white people and part of that identity exists in the notion, unconscious principally but with actual social effects of the authority to rule, white folks as, how can we say, the natural place of duty and authority and a number of
things we think about ourselves that have been placed there by history. they can be unlearned. and i think we are in the early stage of that unlearning and i have hope that it is going to continue. >> one more question from our good student taylor stir the who you have known since the beginning of this semester and taylor was wondering if you might speak to some of the particular challenges of this project. >> challenges of this project partly come from the research
challenges. the fact of the absent archives as i call it, the normal experience of families in the family i'm writing about in this book, my mother's family 150 years ago, working-class family, what they were called in the french-speaking new orleans at the time, little whites, there was an understanding that white population was made of the great whites, the landowning whites, wealthy class and a little whites the majority experience is the absent
archives so there was a research challenge there and there was another research challenge. you asked me earlier whether i can talk about the relationship between this book "life of a klansman" and slaves in the family 20 odd years ago and one thing this book "life of a klansman" does that echoes the template of slaves in the family i find in louisiana and a couple northern states, african americans living today whose ancestors were victimized by the marauders of the ku klux klan great great grandfather
joined and with their participation i tell their family stories as well, what happened to that family in this massacre, what happened to them after where they are now so that was another research problem, finding and gaining trust of several families who would allow me to come visit them in for representative, someone who represents one of the family members who violated and abused their people, their ancestors some decades, some generations ago, that was hard,
that was hard. those are two answers to your question. >> thank you all for the questions you have put into the chat. there have been a number of favorable problems for you and hopefully we will get those to you and read some mail from your many fans. >> i want you to send the ones that are throwing tomatoes. will you send those? sometimes these stories get under people's skin and it is okay. >> thank you again.
can you close this out? >> local booksellers and those talking about this, it is a wonderful book a book of passion for me. i think you and congratulate edward for his scholarship and willingness to tackle subjects that are important to our country being examined and i am optimistic about the future and