Cover image for Encyclopedia of modern American extremists and extremist groups
Encyclopedia of modern American extremists and extremist groups
Atkins, Stephen E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 375 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
"An Oryx book."
Reading Level:
1160 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HN90.R3 A75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



The number of extremists and extremist groups in the United States has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. This encyclopedia, the only one of its kind, provides the most up-to-date information on 275 of the most influential and significant homegrown extremists and extremist groups that have operated in the U.S. since 1950, as well as entries on important extremist events, terms, and concepts. More than 75% of the coverage deals with the period since the 1980s, including subjects unavailable in other sources.

Objective entries focus on left-wing and right-wing individuals and groups who take extreme positions on political, economic, religious, or social issues. Included is the latest information about the workings and agendas of established groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, and hard-to-find information on a variety of recent militia groups, cults, survivalists, and separatist movements. Each entry is followed by a useful bibliography of books and articles for further research. A timeline of events in American extremism and a selection of photos accompany the text. Current through the end of 2001, this work is a valuable tool for authoritative information on what has become a growing problem in the United States.

Author Notes

STEPHEN E. ATKINS is Associate University Librarian for Collection Management at the Sterling C. Evans Library at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy (Greenwood, 2000), which received the Booklist Editor's Choice Award for 2000, Terrorism: A Handbook (1992), Arms Control and Disarmament , Defense and Military , International Security and Peace: An Annotated Guide to Sources 1980-1987 (1989), and The Academic Library in the American University (1991), as well as numerous journal articles on arms control.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

An academic librarian has brought together information on a wide range of political, religious, economic, and social extremism in the U.S. over the past half century, with particular emphasis on the last two decades. According to the introduction, an extremist movement, group, or individual is one who pursues policies or practices outside the societal norm, often through violence. The extremist agenda transcends personal gain and seeks to change the status quo. Although the focus of the book is on current American-developed extremism, links to Canadian and European movements are noted as well as roots earlier in the century. Foreign terrorists operating in the U.S. are excluded. The 275 entries, varying from 200 to 1,500 words, cover leaders, ideas, organizations, and tactics. The largest category of groups and individuals advocates a transformation of the government. These include the Aryan Nations, Kathy Boudin, Ted Kaczynski, and the Michigan Militia. The second largest is religious extremism, followed by economic and social extremism practiced by Earth First! and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, among others. Reflecting the time period that is covered, most of the movements have a radical right orientation. The criminal and violent activities of the groups, the internal conflicts, and the shifting of allegiances between organizations and individuals are described. Birth and death dates, family background, motivation, education, and occupation of the individuals are provided when known. Several entries, such as Animal rights movement and Anti-abortion movement, provide a broad perspective. A list of suggested readings for each entry, current through 2001, directs the user to further information. Cross-references and black-and-white photos enhance the work, which concludes with a 13-page chronology of events and a selected bibliography (including some Internet sources). While other books, such as Encyclopedia of White Power (AltaMira, 2000), cover specific aspects of extremism, this work offers a more comprehensive survey. It will be useful in high-school, public, and academic libraries. -- RBB Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

The terrorists who struck on September 11 were not the first to try to bring down America, and, regrettably, they won't be the last. While we tend to think of terrorist acts as originating outside this country, Atkins (Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy) has put together a reference source that lists 275 of the most influential and significant domestic extremists, organized groups, and extreme events. (Foreigners committing terrorist acts on North American soil are not included.) Here they are divided into three categories: political, religious, and economic/social. While the book covers activities since the 1950s, three quarters of the entries focus on the period from 1980 to 2001. Each entry offers an in-depth article followed by a brief but strong bibliography. Although readers will recognize the subject of some entries, such as the Black Panthers, Heaven's Gate, The Unabomber, Operation Rescue, and the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), many are not well known, such as Gerald McLamb (a leading champion of the militia movement) and the Silver Spring Monkeys (the first major animal liberation group). Thus, this book gives readers insight into a wide range of viewpoints. As it is the only resource currently available on this topic, academic and large public libraries should strongly consider purchase.-Michael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-This exhaustive reference covers the activities of extremists within the U.S. since the 1950s. Atkins does not include acts of foreign terrorists, thereby excluding the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. His definition of extremism is "the advocacy of extreme positions by movements, groups, and organizations" and includes political, religious, economic, and social extremes; three-quarters of the entries focus on the years since 1980. Included are radical groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, PETA, and the American Indian Movement; key figures including David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh; and events such as the Waco Siege and the Ruby Ridge Incident. The many cross-references allow researchers to trace numerous facets of each subject. As one of the few in-depth sources available on this topic, this work will be an oft-consulted addition to reference collections.-Elizabeth M. Reardon, McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Since September 11th, terrorism has been exhaustively investigated, but one of its underlying principles--extremism--has received little attention or credible investigation. Atkins makes a marvelous attempt to ferret out from the nether regions of society individuals or groups who perpetrate such heinous acts as murder, bombing, and other acts of violence or condone them under the guise of righteousness. Atkins narrows the daunting task of investigating the scope and nature of extremism and extremists by identifying and defining the most influential extremist groups, individuals, and events in the US over the most recent 50 years. He also advances a hierarchical typology of three kinds of extremism--political, religious, and economic/social. Highly recommended for all levels of readers. W. Jakub Franciscan University of Steubenville

Table of Contents

Chronology of Events
The Encyclopedia
Selected Bibliography