The Invisible Empire - Cover

The Invisible Empire

A Concise Review of the Epoch

by Albion Winegar Tourgee

Library of Southern Civilization

176 pages / 5.00 x 7.50 inches / no illustrations

Southern History

The North Carolina carpetbagger Albion Winegar Tourgée came to the South in 1865 after serving as a Union volunteer during the Civil War. His struggles in the cause of civil rights led him to take part in the political reorganization of the region. However, in 1879, Tourgée despaired of his efforts in the South and returned to the North. There he published A Fool’s Errand, a largely autobiographical novel that depicted a southern society dominated by the Ku Klux Klan and riddled with racism, ignorance, and corrupt policies. Within a year of the release of A Fool’s Errand, Tourgée published The Invisible Empire, a nonfiction account of his years in the South intended to buttress the portrait of Reconstruction southern society he had depicted in his novel.

The Invisible Empire investigates white supremacy as it emerged from the milieu of slavery, war, politics, and Reconstruction. Tourgée argues that organizations such as the Klan appealed to the mass of white southerners as a means of ameliorating their defeat and ensuring a measure of political control. He describes that Klan as the produce of southern hostility toward “any and all things” associated with the uplifting of the black population. Tourgée’s efforts in his books and in his life, were aimed at undermining racism and promoting egalitarian and democratic ideals.

This reprint of The Invisible Empire brings to light a book that will interest scholars and general readers alike. It is a striking, contemporary look into the mind of the carpetbagger and the genesis of both the Ku Klux Klan and the political structure of the postwar South. Otto H. Olsen’s introduction and notes place the work in its proper historical and literary context. His analysis of the documentary evidence supplied by various reliable sources gives Tourgée’s narrative a more solid historical basis than it has heretofore had. 

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