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MacLean, Nancy 1959–

MacLean, Nancy 1959–


Born August 22, 1959. Education: Brown University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1998, M.A. (magna cum laude), 1981; University of Wisconsin—Madison, Ph.D., 1989.


Office— Department of History, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208-2220. E-mail— [email protected]


Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, assistant professor, 1989-94, associate professor, 1994-96, associate professor of history and African American Studies, Wayne V. Jones research associate professor, and Charles Deering McCormick professor of teaching excellence, 1996-2005, professor of history and African American studies and chair of history department, 2005—. Senior history advisor, Creating a Community of Scholars, U.S. Department of Education; cochair, Chicago Center for Working Class Studies.


Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, Working-Class Studies Association, Labor and Working-Class History Association, Southern Historical Association.


Pell Medal, Brown University, 1981, for excellence in American History; Binkley-Stephenson Prize, Organization of American Historians, 1992, for best article in the Journal of American History; A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize, Southern Association of Women Historians, 1992, for best article in Southern women's history; James A. Rawley Prize, Organization of American Historians, Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Owsley Prize, Southern Historical Association, and Hans Rosenhaupt Memorial Book Award, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, all 1995, all for Behind the Mask of Chivalry; Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights, Willard Hurst Prize for best book in sociolegal history, Law and Society Association,Labor History Best Book Prize, International Association of Labor History Institutions, Richard A. Lester Prize for the Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations, and the Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council, all for Freedom Is Not Enough. University Fellowship, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1982-83, 1985-86; John Lax Memorial Fellowship, Brown University, 1984-85; Alice Freeman Palmer Fellowship, 1986-87; Charlotte Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 1988-89; American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 1995-96; Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research Fellowship, 1995-96; Northwestern University Kaplan Humanities Center fellow, 2001-02.


Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Work Place, R. Sage (New York, NY), 2006.

Excerpts from Behind the Mask of Chivalry have been published in other books, including Major Problems in the History of the American South: Volume II: The New South, edited by Paul D. Escott and others, Houghton Mifflin, 1989;Major Problems in American History, 1920-1945, edited by Colin Gordon, Houghton Mifflin, 1999; and Civil Rights since 1877: A Reader on the Black Struggle, edited by Jonathan Birnbaum and Clarence Taylor, Oxford University Press, 2000. Contributor to other books, including Gender and the Southern Body Politic, edited by Nancy Bercaw, University of Mississippi Press, 2000;Making Sense of the Twentieth Century: Perspectives on Modern America, edited by Harvard Sitkoff, Oxford University Press, 2000; and A Companion to Post-1945 America, edited by Roy Rosenzweig and Jean-Christophe Agnew, Blackwell, 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Feminist Studies, Gender & History, In These Times, Labor, Labor History, Journal of American History, Nation, and the OAH Magazine of History.


Nancy MacLean is a historian whose interests include the workings of class, gender, race, and religion in twentieth-century social movements and public policy. Her first book,Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, which won several prestigious awards from various foundations and historical associations, was called "a remarkable, readable, and important book" by Historian contributor Richard L. Aynes.

Behind the Mask of Chivalry is an analysis of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), a group that fostered discrimination and racial hatred that encompassed not only African Americans but also Jews, Catholics, and various other "outsiders." In her book, the author follows the clan from its founding in 1915 just outside of Atlanta, through the heights of its membership and influence in the South in the mid-1920s, and on to its subsequent waning days in the 1930s, which left it a fringe group with relatively few members. In the process, the author delves into the history and life stories of many of the KKK's members based on information she gathered from a database of 418 Klan members from Clarke County, Georgia. "She skillfully weaves national, state, and local Athens activities together with individual stories and profiles of the membership to create a mosaic of the Klan," according to Aynes.

MacLean also examines how and why the Klan achieved such popularity and power in the South of the 1920s. She discusses the Klan's many beliefs, which focused primarily on white power and what would be referred to today as "family values." The author stresses, however, that the Klan's driving force was its members' virulent racial hatred. In tracing the Klan's rise, the author compares it to the fascist movements in Europe that flourished following World War I. She presents her theory that the KKK's influence came not from members' social importance—most were lower class, unmarried men—but rather was due to the support of local Southern communities who believed that their way of life was being challenged by African Americans, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and even white women and youth who did not believe in the same social order that had typified life in the South.

William D. Jenkins remarked in the Journal of Social History that the author "has undertaken a much-needed and important task, the examination of race, class and gender as categories of analysis of the Klan of the 20s. She has provocatively widened the frame of analysis." Mississippi Quarterly contributor David Chalmers commented: "Professor MacLean reaches broadly and writes thoughtfully and well. Her archival work and mastery of the literature are impressive, and her book's photographic section is a fine supportive visual essay."

In her next book,Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Work Place, MacLean, according to Historian contributor Stephane Elise Booth, "provides a well-researched examination of the economics of inclusion and exclusion in the United States after 1955." In her historical analysis, the author looks at the struggle to establish equality for all Americans in the workplace. Although this equality has been much improved today, in the 1950s most of America seemingly accepted the fact that minorities and women would be discriminated against when it came to job opportunities. Specifically, MacLean examines how African American and Mexican American civil rights activist, along with feminists, came to the decision that freedom in and of itself was not enough to ensure that they had equal access to jobs at every level. "MacLean documents the centrality of economic opportunity to black civil rights activists, feminists, and Mexican-American activists," reported Liza Featherstone in the Women's Review of Books. "In the process, she corrects many errors in the conventional wisdom of both left and right: most saliently, the myth that these movements were led by and benefited only middleclass people."

In addition to looking at activist organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the author explores the contributions of labor organizations and reveals how these various groups' efforts led to clashes with other organizations based primarily on economic issues. MacLean also profiles many of the minorities and women who made the first inroads into occupations and jobs that had been largely unavailable to them throughout American history. In a review of Freedom Is Not Enough in the Journal of Southern History, Robert S. Smith wrote: "While the richness of this discussion on the maturation of equal employment opportunities is central to the discourse and scholarship on labor, gender, and civil rights history, MacLean's detailing of forces in opposition to that movement significantly strengthens an already important work." Historian contributor Booth noted: "One of the most significant contributions of MacLean's work is her examination of the backlash engendered by economic inclusion and its continued impact on current attitudes and practices."



American Historical Review, December, 1995, I.A. Newby, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, p. 1715; June, 2007, Timothy J. Minchin, review of Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Work Place, p. 897.

American Journal of Sociology, January, 2007, Ruth Milkman, "When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America," review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 1278.

American Studies International, April, 1995, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 103.

Black Scholar, summer, 1994, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 76.

Booklist, December 15, 2005, Vanessa Bush, review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 8.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December, 1994, D.R. Jamieson, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 666.

Chronicle of Higher Education, May 25, 1994, Karen J. Winkler, "Disturbed by the History of the Far Right," p. 8.

Contemporary Sociology, May, 1995, Kathleen M. Blee, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 346.

Historian, summer, 1995, Richard L. Aynes, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 807; summer, 2007, Stephane Elise Booth, review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 343.

Journal of American History, June, 1995, Leonard J. Moore, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 320; March, 2007, Anthony S. Chen, review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 1307.

Journal of Social History, fall, 1995, William D. Jenkins, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 218.

Journal of Southern History, November, 1995, Anne Firor Scott, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 831; May, 2007, Robert S. Smith, review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 490.

Mississippi Quarterly, spring, 1995, David Chalmers, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 381.

New York Times, July 26, 1994, Herbert Mitgang, "Books of the Times; Land of the Free but Also a Home of the Bigoted," review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry.

Reviews in American History, December, 1994, Shawn Lay, review of Behind the Mask of Chivalry, p. 668.

University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law, fall, 2005, review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 275.

Women's Review of Books, January 1, 2007, Liza Featherstone, "The Workaday World," review of Freedom Is Not Enough, p. 7.


Northwestern University History Department Web site, (November 2, 2007), faculty profile of Nancy MacLean.

Russell Sage Foundation Web site, (November 2, 2007), brief profile of Nancy MacLean.

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