They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti Informative Book Review


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They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti


Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. Houghton Mifflin: New York, NY, 2010.

Plot Summary:

This book is about the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and how the secret group turned into an organization that ruined the lives of many and took root in America. It takes into account vivid accounts and background on how this group formed.

Critical Analysis:

Historically accurate, and completely heart breaking, this book goes into depth of the creation of the KKK. This book is incredibly detailed. It’s fast paced and just right for juvenile’s to read with clarity. The thing I love the most about this book is when Bartoletti shifts her focus to the victims of the klansmen. Hearing their accounts is incredibly powerful.

The writing was done really well. It didn’t read like a textbook or as nonfiction. It was enjoyable to read through and gave some really good perspective into a really dark period in America’s history.

Another powerful feature of this book is the Civil Rights timeline at the back of the book. It starts in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation and ends in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama as the first African American President! It sends the message that though we still have racial issues, we are progressing. And that, after all, is the entire point of the book.

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal

“This richly documented, historically contextualized account traces the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan from a small mischievous social club into a powerful, destructive organization. With compelling clarity, anecdotal detail, and insight, Bartoletti presents the complex era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, that gave raise to the KKK.”

From Booklist

“Bartoletti follows multi-award-winning titles such as Hitler Youth (2005) with another standout contribution to youth history shelves. Here, she examines how the Ku Klux Klan formed and grew out of the ashes of the Civil War. Bartoletti, who taught eighth-graders for 18 years, writes in admirably clear, accessible language about one of the most complex periods in U.S. history, and she deftly places the powerfully unsettling events into cultural and political context without oversimplifying.”

From Kirkus Review

“Balancing the stories of the Klan and the former slaves’ determination to remake their lives, Bartoletti makes extensive use of congressional testimony, interviews, journals, diaries and slave narratives to allow the players to speak in their own voices as much as possible…An exemplar of history writing and a must for libraries and classrooms.”


Books about the KKK:

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin ISBN 9781467749343

Us and Them: A History of Intolerance in America by Jim Carnes ISBN 0195131258

Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell ISBN  0545477255

Books by Susan Campbell Bartoletti:

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow ISBN 0439353793

The Boy Who Dared ISBN 9780439680134

Growing Up in Coal Country ISBN 0395979145


Published by

Adrinna Davis

Hello there! Not much to me, I'm just your average author and librarian who is obsessed with Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, Divergent, ect... who is married with two kids. :) And now blogger. I love children's lit and want to share with you all the amazing books I find!

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