Ku Klux Klan

The story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s first secretary, Maude Ballou

In this comfortable suburb north of Jackson, Maude Ballou sits among other residents, chatting about lunch, the weather and the daily pleasures of life in a congenial retirement home. She spends her days quietly, reading — the Bible, mostly — and catching up with family and friends.

It wasn't always so.

In the 1950s, Ballou lived in Montgomery during a turbulent, violent time in Alabama's capital. She worked there for a nascent civil rights organization, the Montgomery Improvement Association, doing almost daily battle with fierce opponents, including the segregationist White Citizens' Council and an intransigent political culture hellbent on keeping the city as it had been...