The term Peckerwood was coined in the 19th century. It was a derogatory term used by Southern blacks to describe poor and/or rural Southern whites. Blacks viewed the blackbird as a symbol of themselves, and viewed the redheaded woodpecker as a representation of whites. In the 1940s, the term "wood" became part of California prison slang and, in the early 1970s, was used to refer to white prison inmates, who were willing to fight to avoid being raped or robbed. Inmates eventually made the term peckerwood a source of pride. In the late 1980's, recruitment of young men and women in many of the nation's prisons helped lead to the emergence of pro-white street gangs similar to Skinheads. Women in this movement are called Featherwoods (women skinheads are called "Skinbyrds" - "Birds").
The typical Peckerwood gang has approximately 5 to 20 members who range in age from their early teens to their mid-20s. Most of these gangs lack leadership and structure. The Peckerwoods exhibit the standard Aryan symbols in various manners to denote their support of white supremacy ideology. In addition to these symbols, their tattoos usually display the phrases "Peckerwood," "Pure Peckerwood," "100% Pure Wood," "Pure Peck," "Pure Wood," "Peckerwood Inc," "Peckerwood Tribe," "100% Peckerwood," or images of the woodpecker bird to indicate set affiliation. Clay Smith's "Mr. Horsepower" logo, and Woody Woodpecker tattoos are popular with Peckerwoods.
Peckerwoods are similar to Skinheads except for one major difference. Drugs. Neo-Nazi Skinheads are completely against any type of drug use. Peckerwoods, much like typical street gangs, make much of their money from the sale of drugs. The "Peckerwood style" is derived from both Latino gangs (Pendleton shirts and baggy pants) and Skinheads (Doc Marten boots, flight jackets, and in some instances, shaven heads).
Criminal activities perpetrated by Peckerwoods include theft, burglaries, vehicle thefts, weapon charges and possession and sale of narcotics. They have also been known to be involved in numerous racially motivated assaults and murders.
The San Fernando Valley Peckerwoods (SVP) in California was a criminally motivated skinhead group. SVP members primarily sold meth-amphetamines and committed residential burglaries. Periodically, SVP members attacked minorities with weapons and, on one occasion, placed packages resembling bombs near an apartment complex where black people lived. Members intended for the fake bombs to frighten current residents to relocate and to discourage other black families from moving into the complex.