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In 1872 the Gwinnett County courthouse was burned by the Ku-Klux Klan. The events leading up to the arson reveal much about the motivations and nature of the Reconstruction-era Klan in a county at the intersection of Georgia’s Black Belt and Upcountry. Although it still functioned as an instrument of terror wielded by the political elite to respond to the threats posed by Reconstruction authorities and the newly freed African American population, the power structure of the Old South was never fully established in the county, and it was consequently relatively unaffected by Reconstruction. Much of the Klan violence which occurred in Gwinnett County, while still targeting African Americans, was also tied to non-ideological criminal activity associated with the lower classes, such as bootlegging and gambling. Although violence was limited in comparison to many other locations, the evident ties to organized criminal activity and the willingness of the Gwinnett County Klan to attack the center of a government which remained under local control contrasts with traditional narratives of tacit acceptance by Southern authorities and offers a unique insight into the complex and disorganized nature of the Reconstruction Klan.


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  • Subject
    • Interdisciplinary Studies

  • Institution
    • Gainesville

  • Event location
    • MPR 1

  • Event date
    • 22 March 2019

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Dr. Dee Gillespie