Gulf South Writer in the Woods Edward Ball Releases “Life of a Klansman”
August 4, 2020
2017-2018 Gulf South Writer in the Woods Edward Ball has released Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy, which he worked on while in residence.
Ball’s sixth book of non-fiction, Life of a Klansman tells the story of a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a carpenter in New Orleans who took up the cause of fanatical racism during the years after the Civil War. A descendant of the Klansman, Ball paints a portrait of his family’s anti-Black militant that is part history, part memoir rich in personal detail and critical reflection.
Sifting through family lore as well as public and private records, Ball reconstructs the story of his great-great grandfather, Constant Lecorgne. A white French Creole, father of five, and working class ship carpenter, Lecorgne had a career in white terror, all part of a tireless effort that he and other Klansmen made to restore white power when it was threatened by the emancipation of four million enslaved African Americans.
For whites, to have a Klansman in the family tree is no rare thing: Demographic estimates suggest that fifty percent of whites in the United States have at least one ancestor who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan at some point in its history. That is, one-half of white Americans could write a Klan family memoir, if they wished.
In an era when racist ideology and violence are again loose in the public square, Life of a Klansman offers a personal origin story of white supremacy. Ball’s family memoir traces the vines that have grown from militant roots in the Old South into the bitter fruit of the present, when whiteness persists as a cause of hate and domestic terror.