A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot To Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them

Books on Tape. Apr. 2023. 10:30 hrs. ISBN 9780593670675. $95. HIST
National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Egan (The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl) presents his impeccably researched history of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan’s rise to power in the 1920s. Egan focuses his work on David C. Stephenson, an eighth-grade dropout from Texas who became the most powerful political figure in Indiana as the Klan’s Grand Dragon. Stephenson’s Klan ultimately included half a million followers supported by his private police force of 30,000 men. With the help of politicians, ministers, judges, and law enforcement, the Indiana Klan sustained attacks against Black Americans, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants. Stephenson’s downfall occurred in 1925 when he was convicted of the abduction, savage rape, and murder of Indiana lending-library manager Madge Oberholtzer, whose deathbed testimony led to Stephenson’s disgrace. Court evidence, oral records, autobiographies, letters, diaries, and newspaper quotes document Egan’s gripping story. Egan narrates his book with a steady, even tone, implacably moving the story forward as he relates the sordid details.
VERDICT This superb author-narrated work illuminates a terrifying and chillingly relevant time in U.S. history. An essential purchase for all libraries.
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