Racial violence and segregation

Vigilante violence was critical in upholding the White supremacist order in the 20th century US. This research agenda aims to illuminate the relationship between racial progress and White supremacist terrorism, a dynamic with historical origins and modern consequences. 

School desegregation and the re-emergence of the KKK

When one of the dominant vehicles for organizing and carrying out vigilante violence – the Ku Klux Klan – re-emerged in the 1960s, it did not appear everywhere in the South. Curiously, it re-surged primarily in North Carolina and Mississippi. In order to solve this particular puzzle and to elucidate the broader forces driving White supremacist terrorism in the US, I take advantage of two under-utilized data sources: reports of school district desegregation (Cascio et al 2008) and event information on North Carolina Klan rallies (Owens et al 2015). 

I first establish that earlier Klan activity is not a robust predictor of 1960s Klan activity. I then take up historians' claim that Brown v. Board sparked the third wave of the KKK, and I estimate the effect of desegregation on subsequent Klan rallies. I theorize that the type of desegregation mattered to local Whites who resented integration, and I hypothesize that voluntary desegregation sparked more Klan activity than did court-ordered desegregation. Initial results suggest that before the Civil Rights Act, which changed how the federal government enforced integration, court-ordered desegregations were associated with significantly fewer KKK rallies, while voluntary desegregations were associated with significantly more. After the Civil Rights Act, however, desegregations of any kind resulted in significantly more rallies.

[research in progress]