Review: ′The Invisible Empire: Madge Oberholtzer and The Unmasking of The Ku Klux Klan′

Comic Books Entertainment Reviews

The emblematic case showed how corrupt men will think themselves invulnerable.

Writer: Micky Neilson, Todd Warger, Karen Green (Foreword)
Artist and Colorist: Marc Borstel
Cover Artist: Marc Borstel

This is the first book I′ve ever read about the KKK. Set in Indiana in 1925, it tells the case of Madge Oberholtzer: a woman who was brutally abducted and raped, who gave a testimony before dying accusing her aggressor, D.C. Stephenson.

That man was all-powerful: a politician and former KKK Grand Dragon, in a time and a place where fascism was approved of, with one-third of Indiana′s population among its ranks. The fact that this organization was seen as patriotic, empowering, and “allowable” will tell you a lot about how we′ve managed to change things this last century.

Madge was a young white girl who wanted a lot of things in life; as portrayed, she manages to show joy in her face. One thing I did not like about the depiction of all the white people in this book is their permanent frowns: I don′t think there′s a distinction about good and evil that will show in a person′s face like that. If Hanna Arendt has proved anything, is that any normal looking individual, with family and values, will and can be influenced by his surroundings and stop differentiating what′s good and what′s bad. That’s the problem with power and corruption, and it can affect all of us.

On March 15th, Stephenson and his henchmen abducted Madge at gunpoint and forced her to accompany him on a private train to Chicago, where he would abuse her. There are some violent images here (not the actual rape, but close) and a brutal account of what happened, and will classify, then, as an adult read or at least high school material.

Madge proved to be a fierce woman: beaten, hurt, and kidnapped, she managed to poison herself to force her release, gave a full statement of her abuse, with her parents’ support, and all of that was done bravely in a narrow window: she died of shame, hurt, and poisoning shortly thereafter. With her testimony, her family was able to prosecute a high political figure, exposing the depths of Indiana′s political corruption, and thus lay bare the true face of the Ku Klux Klan—a revelation that would have a ripple effect on America′s impression of the Klan from that day forward.

Stephenson thought himself above the law. I′m glad someone proved him wrong. I wish I could say the same about my own country.

′The Invisible Empire: Madge Oberholtzer and The Unmasking of The Ku Klux Klan′ is on sale September 17th, 2019.

Genre: Graphic Literature, History
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Price: $17.12

Featured image by Marc Borstel, all images belong to Insight Comics

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