Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy

Farrar. Aug. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780374186326. $28. SOC SCI
Ball, winner of the National Book Award for Slaves in the Family, returns with a book about his family history. This time, he writes about an ancestor on his mother’s side, Polycarp Constant Lecorgne of New Orleans, with whom Ball has long been fascinated due to the family’s legend of his association with the Ku Klux Klan. Admitting that he has virtually no sources from Lecorgne himself that explain his thoughts, feelings, or his life in general in his own words, Ball instead turns to threadbare bureaucratic sources and histories of racism in Louisiana and New Orleans and often veers into histories of other families that have seemingly no association with Lecorgne. What results is a book that is almost entirely historical context and speculation on the many reasons an ordinary French Creole white man would join the Klan and other racist organizations and participate in violence against newly empowered blacks after the Civil War (although to what extent he did, Ball can’t really say).
VERDICT Ball is thoughtful about incorporating new theories of whiteness and the implications for descendants of Klan members, but the lack of solid evidence about Lacorgne may leave readers wanting more.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing