Who Put The Klan In The Ku Klux Klan?
Archaeologist and Historian, Neil Oliver has often celebrated the disproportionate impact Scots have had on the history of other countries. He’s told before how Scottish ideas and energy helped build the American Dream, but now he explores how Scottish settlers shaped America’s racist nightmare.
In this surprising documentary Neil examines the links between racism today in the Deep South and the Scots who first occupied it. Throughout the 18th Century, hundreds of thousands of Scots emigrated to America. Some came willingly, but many resented being cleared from their land after the failed Jacobite rebellions or by aristocratic landowners. They embraced the opportunity that the arrival of cotton gave to become slave masters and wealthy plantation owners. When their world was threatened, the southern states opted for Civil War rather than give up their slaves.
With attitudes in the South embittered by defeat and fear of the now-freed slaves, six Scottish-American, former Confederate officers formed a fraternal society, and clan became Klan! The oldest and most feared racist hate group in America – the Ku Klux Klan – was born. At the turn of the twentieth century, a racist novel by another Scots American became a best seller. The famous film based on it, “The Birth of a Nation” revitalised the Klan and its key images of the fiery cross and the hooded horsemen were etched in the American psyche forever.
Now, well over 800 hate groups stalk America and Neil finishes his journey with one of them. The League of the South advocates a separate Southern society run by ‘Anglo Celts’ and Neil discovers that here Scottish-ness still shapes attitudes that don’t seem to have changed much in the last 250 years.