Attention has been focused on the almost mythical Ku Klux Klan organization in the United States, following the allegations that Senator Black, the new Supreme Court judge, was a member of the sect. Virtually unknown, even in the U.S., a women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan has grown into a powerful organization in the south. The women’s Klan salute to the cross at Atlanta, Georgia, on Aug. 18, 1937. Source: AP Images

Rallying Behind Racism

The Women of White Supremacy

White supremacy has been in the news a lot recently. It is often seen as a movement at the fringes of American society, and discussion of it rarely includes white women. But women play a critical, if overlooked, role in the white supremacy movement, and examining their involvement shows it to be far less fringe than many think. So on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne dig into the little known history of white women and white supremacy.

This episode and related resources are funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Suggested Readings:

Stephanie Jones-Rogers, “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South” (2019)

Thavolia Glymph, “Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household” (2008)

Karen L. Cox, “Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture” (2003)

Kathleeen Blee, “Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s” (1991)

Kathleen Belew, “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America” (2018)

Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, “Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy” (2017)

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
View Resources

The Women of White Supremacy Lesson Set

Download the full lesson set.

In the wake of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, there has been an increased awareness of white supremacy in the national discourse. However, white supremacy movements have existed in the United States since the founding of the country. Following the abolition of slavery, white supremacy groups fought for continued segregation with Jim Crow laws. Historians have often focused on the role of men in shaping the national narrative of white supremacy. However, this lens ignores the contributions of white women throughout history who fought to maintain racial hierarchies.

This lesson, and the corresponding BackStory episode, focus on the women of different white supremacy movements throughout American history. Far from being innocent bystanders, women frequently took an active role in trying to preserve the status quo of racial inequality. The episode discusses white supremacy in three different contexts: slavery during the 19th century, during Jim Crow-era segregation, and today. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, some elements of this lesson plan may be difficult for some students to hear and discuss.

Listening Notes By Hayley Duncan , Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Lake Lure Classical Academy