Image - Fergus Bordewich and President Grant
Past Event

Fergus Bordewich: President Grant’s War Against the Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan rose from the ashes of the Civil War. At its peak in the early 1870s, the Klan had tens of thousands of members, many of them landowners, lawmen, doctors, journalists, and churchmen, as well as future governors and congressmen. The Klan’s mission was to obliterate the democratic power of newly emancipated Black Americans and their white allies, often by the most horrific means imaginable.

To repel the tidal wave of violence, President Ulysses S. Grant waged a two-term battle against both armed Southern enemies of Reconstruction and Northern politicians seduced by visions of postwar reconciliation. In his new book Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction, historian Fergus Bordewich transports us to the hamlets of the former Confederate States and to the marble corridors of Congress, where an unsung generation of Black leaders tried to hold onto Reconstruction-era political gains, and where senators such as Carl Schurz from Missouri, and the ruthless former slave trader and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, worked to eliminate the rights of Black Americans in the name of political “reform.”

Join us for a special online-only program as Bordewich shares the  stunning history of the first national anti-terrorist campaign waged on American soil, as Ulysses S. Grant wielded the power of the federal government to dismantle the KKK. It is also a bracing reminder of the bloody, Reconstruction-era roots of current battles to protect the ballot box and to undercut resurgent white supremacist ideologies.


A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums.

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Bernard Osher Foundation

Bordewich photo by David Altschul.

January 16, 2024

The Commonwealth Club of California
United States

Image - Fergus Bordewich

Fergus Bordewich

Author, Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction

Image - George Hammond

In Conversation with George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates