Secret and private organizations, in the form of Greek-letter organizations, mutual aid societies, and civic orders, together possess a storied and often-romanticized place in popular culture. While much has been made of these groups’ glamorous origins and influence—such as the Freemasons’ genesis in King Solomon’s temple or the belief in the Illuminati’s control of modern geo-politics—few have explicitly examined the role of race and ethnicity in organizing and perpetuating these cloistered orders. This volume directly addresses the inattention paid to the salience of race in secret societies. Through an examination of the Historically Black and White Fraternities and Sororities, the Ku Klux Klan in the US, the Ekpe and Abakuj secret societies of Africa and the West Indies, Gypsies in the United Kingdom, Black and White Temperance Lodges, and African American Order of the Elks, this book traces the use of racial and ethnic identity in these organizations.
This important contribution examines how such orders are both cause and consequence of colonization, segregation, and subjugation, as well as their varied roles as both catalysts and impediments to developing personal excellence, creating fictive kinship ties, and fostering racial uplift, nationalism, and cohesion.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies.