• Steven Heller

KKK Strikes Out

During this era, when our President boldly asserted there are “good people” on the bigoted white supremacist fringe, I was moved by the design and content of this important 1965 book about the Ku Klux Klan.

There have been three stages of the Ku Klux Klan from its inception in 1865 through the 1920s and then the 1950s until today. In the 1920s there were actually some 5 million members, including governors, senators and congressmen — even President Woodrow Wilson sanctioned the Klan when screened DW Griffith’s silent racist classic, “The Birth of a Nation.” During the 20s the KKK struck out into the open, they were not afraid to come out of the closet just as they seem to be poised now.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with graphic design? Everything! The KKK’s image is about the design of conspiracy and the design of terror — underscored by the design of robes, emblems and flags. (See The Daily Heller on the KKK Mart.)

What does racist supremacy look like? David November‘s striking 1965 design of Ku Klux Klan: The Invisible Empire is an indictment of the mystic order of dens of the United Klans of America governed by Cyclops, Kaliffs, Klockards, Kludds, Kligrapps, Klagaroos and others at Klonvocations. It is, in part, the story of a 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights worker, on the Jeff Davis Highway between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. The book is based on the documentary of the same name for CBS Reports (see it here) by David Lowe (reported by Charles Kuralt), when CBS, the network that brought down Joseph McCarthy, had guts to address real news with hard facts. November’s design, from its emblematic cover to its elegant interior is also a testament to how design helps communicate truth that is truth.

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