Virtual Event: Edward Ball

presenting

Life of a Klansman:
A Family History in White Supremacy

in conversation with KENNETH W. MACK

Date

Aug
7
Friday
August 7, 2020
7:00 PM

Location

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.

Tickets

Free - $3 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and the Boston Public Library welcome acclaimed writer EDWARD BALL—author of the National Book Award–winning biography Slaves in the Familyfor a discussion of his latest book, Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy. He will be joined in conversation by KENNETH W. MACK, the inaugural Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Harvard University and author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer.

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About Life of a Klansman

Life of a Klansman tells the story of a warrior in the Ku Klux Klan, a carpenter in Louisiana who took up the cause of fanatical racism during the years after the Civil War. Edward Ball, a descendant of the Klansman, paints a portrait of his family’s anti-black militant that is part history, part memoir rich in personal detail.

Sifting through family lore about “our Klansman” as well as public and private records, Ball reconstructs the story of his great-great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne. A white French Creole, father of five, and working class ship carpenter, Lecorgne had a career in white terror of notable and bloody completeness: massacres, night riding, masked marches, street rampages—all part of a tireless effort that he and other Klansmen made to restore white power when it was threatened by the emancipation of four million enslaved African Americans. To offer a non-white view of the Ku-klux, Ball seeks out descendants of African Americans who were once victimized by “our Klansman” and his comrades, and shares their stories.

For whites, to have a Klansman in the family tree is no rare thing: Demographic estimates suggest that fifty percent of whites in the United States have at least one ancestor who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan at some point in its history. That is, one-half of white Americans could write a Klan family memoir, if they wished.

In an era when racist ideology and violence are again loose in the public square, Life of a Klansman offers a personal origin story of white supremacy. Ball’s family memoir traces the vines that have grown from militant roots in the Old South into the bitter fruit of the present, when whiteness is again a cause that can veer into hate and domestic terror.

Praise for Life of a Clansman

"Ball tells his story with curiosity, disgust, and a sweeping lamp of novelistic imagination, making his tale all the chillier for being so intimate, so intensely realized . . . This is an important work of America’s collective history—one whose ghosts are most undead." —John Freeman, Literary Hub

“Captivating . . . An intimate origin story of the white-supremacist movement . . . [Edward Ball] reconstructs his ancestor’s world and moral insight in a work of novelistic expansiveness . . . Ball refuses to ‘disown’ the past, believing it crucial for white Americans to acknowledge that ‘marauders like Constant are our people, and they fight for us.’ Accordingly, he approaches his ancestor’s story with shame, but also sympathy and imagination.” —Julian Lucas, Harper's

"In this compelling narrative of the life of a klansman, Edward Ball reckons with the history of whiteness that has shaped the U.S. and which is his personal inheritance. Ball confronts the violence and hatred at the foundation of white authority and privilege by recounting his great-great-grandfather’s worldview and acts of brutality. It is easy to recoil from the ugliness documented in these pages; much more difficult is the task of acknowledging that murder and terror are the bedrock of the nation. Life of A Klansman is a must-read, now more than ever." —Saidiya Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Edward Ball
Edward Ball

Edward Ball

Edward Ball’s books include The Inventor and the Tycoon, about the birth of moving pictures in California, and Slaves in the Family, an account of his family’s history as slaveholders in South Carolina, which received the National Book Award for Nonfiction. He has taught at Yale University and has been awarded fellowships by the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center. He is also the recipient of a Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Photo Credit: Nina Subin

Kenneth W. Mack
Kenneth W. Mack

Kenneth W. Mack

Kenneth W. Mack is the inaugural Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Harvard University. He is also the co-faculty leader of the Harvard Law School Program on Law and History. He is the author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (2012), and co-editor of The New Black: What Has Changed—And What Has Not—With Race in America (2013).

 

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

Co-Sponsored by Boston Public Library

Established in 1848 by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The mission of the Library is focused on four core areas: reading and literacy, spaces and programs, reference and instruction, and special collections and cultural heritage. Our commitment to be ‘Free to All’ is carved into the façade of the Central Library in Copley Square, and we are proud to welcome everyone equally regardless of gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, faith, or economic status. For more information, visit: https://www.bpl.org/about-us/

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