Apersonal note may be in order here. In the summer of 1964, after three years of journalistic apprenticeship in Washington and New York, I returned to North Carolina, where I had spent four years of college, and joined the editorial staff of the Greensboro Daily News (now the Greensboro News-Record) as an editorial writer. It was a time of intense and often emotional activity on the civil rights front, and, as the city where the sit-in movement had begun three years earlier, Greensboro was right in the middle of it. The Daily News, like all the other major papers in the state’s medium-size cities, was moderate by inclination though rather more conservative on the subject of civil rights than I. Still, I wrote about civil rights and related matters throughout the decade I was there and was pretty much given a free hand.
By coincidence, my arrival in Greensboro coincided almost exactly with the quite startling revival of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina. “By the summer of 1964,” David Cunningham writes in “Klansville, U.S.A.,” “the Carolina Klan established a demanding schedule of nightly rallies across the state, where they enlisted thousands of dues-paying members.” More than that, “at its mid-1960s peak the [Klan’s] presence in North Carolina eclipsed klan membership in all other southern states combined.” (Cunningham puts “klan” in lowercase because it was a diverse organization, or disorganization, with many offshoots, some of them mutually incompatible.) For obvious reasons Cunningham’s book is of great interest to me, albeit a great disappointment, about which more later.