Episode 61: Birth of a Notion: Needle Men, Night Doctors and the KKK

Imagine realizing you are worth more dead than you are alive; that there was a market for your corpse; that you might never be allowed to rest in peace, even after death. These are the ideas that drive the legend of Needle Men. The mysterious sounding title was used to describe rogue medical students in New Orleans who went out looking for unsuspecting victims to inject with poison and carve up in order to learn the secrets of the human body. While this is a legend, the study of human anatomy did have a dark side in America’s early days. This week we will explore the history of Resurrectionists, Night Doctors and Sackemup Men; and how the fear of such persons along with the fear of Night Riding Slave Patrols gave rise to the Invisible Empire known as the Ku Klux Klan. Join us this week as we discuss the terror the KKK has inspired in America for well over a century, and the ways in which this hate group is evolving to continue its teachings and missions in modern society.

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Guest Storyteller: Matthew Guinn

matthewguinnA native of Atlanta, Matthew Guinn earned a BA in English from the University of Georgia. He continued graduate school at the University of Mississippi, where he met his wife Kristen and completed a master’s degree. At the University of South Carolina, where he earned a Ph.D. in English, he was personal assistant to the late James Dickey. In addition to the Universities of Mississippi and South Carolina, he has taught at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and at Tulane University’s School of Continuing Studies in Madison, Mississippi.
Matthew and Kristen live in Jackson, Mississippi, with their two children, Braiden and Phoebe.

Matthew Guinn’s Author Page


The Woman Who Beat The Klan – NYTimes.com

Donald v. United Klans of America | Southern Poverty Law Center

Hate Map | Southern Poverty Law Center

Collection: Digital Archive: Fiery Cross – IU Bloomington Libraries

Graverobbing slave had vital role for Medical College of Georgia

The Night Doctors: The Terror Behind The Abduction Phenomenon | Mysterious Universe

Meet Grandison Harris, the Grave Robber Enslaved (and then Employed) By the Georgia Medical College |History | Smithsonian

The Gory New York City Riot that Shaped American Medicine History | Smithsonian

GRANDISON HARRIS – “The Resurrection Man” | My GA History

Known but to God: The Story of the Resurrection Man

The Night Riders: Sacred Fire & Revolutionary Justice in the Black Patch – William H. Funk • Journalist | Documentarian | Environmental Attorney

Black Magic: African-American Ambivalence to Superstition & the Supernatural – Maura McNamara

Night Riders History

Night Riders – Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Whites see blacks as superhuman: Strength, speed, pain tolerance, and the magical negro.

U.S. History in Context

Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro by Newbell Niles Puckett – 1926

Ku Klux Klan Secrets Exposed – Ezra A. Cook, Publisher – 1922

Saving Society Through Politics: The Ku Klux Klan in Dallas, Texas – Mark N. Norris – Dissertation – University of North Texas – 1997

The Fiery Cross: The Klan’s Fight to Save America by Andy M. Kozlowski – Illinois Wesleyan University – 2012

Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism and Violence – Compiled by the Staff of the Klanwatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center – 2011

Night Riders in Black Folk History by Gladys Marie Fry

The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer

Night Doctors – The Paris Review

The Poor, the Black, and the Marginalized as the Source of Cadavers in United States Anatomical Education – Clinical Anatomy

Night Doctors: Exhuming the Truth

Gumbo YA-YA: Folk Tales of Louisiana by Robert Tallant, Lyle Saxon

The Bioarchaeology of Dissection and Autopsy in the United States – Kenneth C Nystrom

Meet Grandison Harris, the Grave Robber Enslaved (and then employed) By the Georgia Medical College – Smithsonian

The Gory New York City Riot that Shaped American Medicine – Smithsonian

Superman Versus the KKK

Jurors Hear Dylann Roof Explain Shooting in Video: ‘I Had to Do It’ – NYT

Dylann Roof Found Guilty in Charleston Church Massacre – NYT

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of and American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

2 thoughts on “Episode 61: Birth of a Notion: Needle Men, Night Doctors and the KKK

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