Author Bill Campbell and artist Bizhan Khodabandeh discuss their work on the acclaimed new graphic novel, The Day the Klan Came to Town, a fictionalized retelling of a community’s resistance to a violent 1923 march of thousands of Ku Klux Klan members in Carnegie, Pa. Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do, describes the book as “A piece of American history in all its ugliness told as an astonishing coming together of misfits to stand up against a common threat. Bill brings an international scope to the history and a concise understanding of politics to the story. Bizhan’s art is dazzling. This is a book for our times.”
The event is free and open to all and will be held in person but will also be live streamed through Zoom. The in-person location will be James Branch Cabell Library, Room 303, 901 Park Ave., Richmond, Va. 23219. Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad Street, West Main Street and West Cary Street parking decks.
Please register to attend in person or online. For questions or accommodations, please contact the VCU Libraries Events Office at email@example.com or (804) 828-0593.
Registration opens soon.
About the Book
The year is 1923. The Ku Klux Klan is at the height of its power in the U.S. as membership swells into the millions and they expand beyond their original southern borders. As they continue their campaigns of terror against African Americans, their targets now also include Catholics and Jews, southern and eastern Europeans, all in the name of “white supremacy.” Incorporating messages of moral decency, family values and temperance, the Klan has slapped on a thin veneer of respectability and become a “civic organization,” attracting new members, law enforcement and politicians to their particular brand of white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant “Americanism.”
Pennsylvania enthusiastically joined that wave. That was when the Grand Dragon of Pennsylvania decided to display the Klan’s newfound power in a show of force. He chose a small town outside of Pittsburgh named after Andrew Carnegie, a small, unassuming borough full of Catholics and Jews, the perfect place to teach immigrants a “lesson.” Some thirty thousand members of the Klan gathered from as far as Kentucky for “Karnegie Day.” After initiating new members, they armed themselves with torches and guns to descend upon the town to show them exactly what Americanism was all about.
The Day the Klan Came to Town is a fictionalized retelling of the riot, focusing on a Sicilian immigrant, Primo Salerno. He is not a leader; he’s a man with a troubled past. He was pulled from the sulfur mines of Sicily as a teen to fight in the First World War. Afterward, he became the focus of a local fascist and was forced to emigrate to the United States. He doesn’t want to fight but feels that he may have no choice. The entire town needs him—and indeed everybody—to make a stand.
About the Speakers
Bill Campbell is the author of Sunshine Patriots, My Booty Novel and the anti-racism satire, Koontown Killing Kaper. Along with Edward Austin Hall, he co-edited the groundbreaking anthology, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. He also co-edited Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany with Nisi Shawl, Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International Science Fiction and Fantasy with Francesco Verso, and APB: Artists Against Police Brutality with Jason Rodriguez and John Jennings. His Afrofuturist spaceploitation graphic novel, Baaaad Muthaz (with David Brame and Damian Duffy) was released in 2019. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he spends his time with his family and helms Rosarium Publishing.
Bizhan Khodabandeh is a visual communicator who moves freely across the professional boundaries as designer, illustrator, artist and activist. His works vary from small graphic art projects to major public campaigns. He has received numerous international and national awards and commendations for his work, including a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, a silver medal from the International Design Awards, finalist placement in the Cross-Cultural Design Competition and a best-in-show distinction through the American Institute of Graphic Arts. His work has been featured in publications such as Print, Creativity International, Adbusters and Comic Bastards. Currently he serves as assistant professor of advertising in the VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture and freelances under the name Mended Arrow.
Moderator: Grace D. Gipson, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the VCU Department of African American Studies. She is a Black future feminist/pop culture scholar whose research explores Black popular culture, digital humanities, representations of race and gender within comic books, Afrofuturism and race and new media. Her current book project seeks to explore Black female identities as personified in comics and fandom culture. A second project examines how online Black female academic and popular networks produce cultural and technical capital, which act as safe spaces that showcase, interrogate and celebrate the blending of popular culture and the academy. Before joining VCU in 2020, she served as a Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester and a visiting lecturer at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in African American studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
This event is sponsored by VCU Libraries and the VCU Humanities Research Center.
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Image: The Day the Klan Came to Town promotional art by Bizhan Khodabandeh