rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 2: p. 164
Sources: Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History
Carla Wilson Bus

Curriculum Materials & Education Librarian, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia

The late Stephen Atkins has a number of books on terrorism and extremism to his credit. His last book, The Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History, was completed posthumously by his wife and children. Among his previous titles are Terrorism: a Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 1992), The 9/11 Encyclopedia (Praeger Security International, 2008), Holocaust Denial as an International Movement (Praeger, 2009), and works on atomic energy and related issues (Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy, Greenwood, 2000; Arms Control and Disarmament, Defense and Military, International Security and Peace, ABC-CLIO, 1989). Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History may at first glance appear to be more of a second edition of his Encyclopedia of Modern American Extremists and Extremists Groups (Greenwood, 2002), but it does, in fact, focus more narrowly on the right-wing and the various shades of extremism exhibited by groups embracing this ideology.

Extremism in America is not going away. Atkins defines extremist groups as those that seek radical change and defense of privilege (xii). Atkins quotes data (xiii) from the Southern Poverty Law Center which indicate that over 960 groups which fit the definition of extremist were operating in the United States as late as 2008, with a noticeable spike in Ku Klux Klan organization and the establishment of patriot groups between 2007 and 2008. The SPLC website documents nearly 120 hate incidents for 2012 alone, with actions ranging from vandalism and intimidation to assault, including burning a cross on a lawn in South Carolina in March ( With this type and volume of activity, an encyclopedia on American extremists is called for.

The book is divided into three parts: “American White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi Movements,” “Christian Identity, Christian Reconstructionism and Other Right-wing Religious Movements,” and “Anti-American Government Extremists.” Each section then includes detailed descriptions of the groups which fall into each category. The entries tend to be quite long and are heavily footnoted. The Ku Klux Klan chapter, which opens the book, runs to nearly thirty pages with more than 180 footnotes. There is an extensive bibliography and a detailed index. The entries are fascinating to read, if more than a little frightening.

This latest work also includes groups not named in Modern American Extremists and, for those that are, these latest entries are much more detailed. By the same token, Modern American Extremists includes a broader range of groups, including the anti-abortion movement, Greenpeace, Ervil LeBaron, who was leader of the Church of the Lamb of God, and the Black Panthers, which are not included in Right-Wing Extremism.

The Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History compares favorably with other works in the field, such as D.J. Mulloy’s American Extremism (Routledge, 2004), Neil Hamilton’s Militias in America (ABC-CLIO, 1996), and Right-Wing Populism in America by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons (Guildford Press, 2000), although these works are narratives and better suited to the general collection. Recommended for the reference collections of public and academic libraries as well as for high school libraries.

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