The Ku Klux Klan came to Hillsborough on Saturday. They were a pathetic looking crew wearing their robes and waving flags. They made a point of showing their political allegiance with a banner that prominently read, “Make America Great Again.”
That group of the Klan hails from a small community in rural Caswell County called Pelham. They’re none too bright. A few years ago, they held a rally to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory. Before the rally, a fight broke out among several Klansmen and one was stabbed by the leader of the group, Chris Barker. Before that, Barker wore an FBI wire to help arrest another Klansman who wanted to use his “mobile death ray” on Muslims. They’re probably more a threat to each other than anyone else.
The Klan have been here in North Carolina since the Civil War. Over that period of time, they’ve taken different forms. The Klan of the 1920s was made up of many prominent white leaders including elected officials who believed passionately in white supremacy. That Klan faded in influence amidst financial scandals, the Great Depression and World War II and lost the support of most local leaders. It never went away, but it lost never had broad support again. In the late 1950s, the Lumbee Indians famously routed an attempted Klan gathering in Robeson County, stealing their flags and leaving the Klan fleeing in fear.
The Klan that emerged in the 1960s is the one I remember most. They were made up primarily of rural working class whites in response to school desegregation. In Anson County, where I grew up, they bombed buildings and businesses belonging to school board members. Periodically, we would find Klan newsletters left in our driveway. Throughout my school years, a small contingent of classmates claimed to support the Klan with a certain ignorant, anti-establishment bravado. I see that same sentiment in a lot of Trump supporters today.
In 1979, the Klan got into a shootout with members of the Communist Workers Party in Greensboro and five CWP ended up dead in what is known as “The Greensboro Massacre.” Nobody was ever convicted for the deaths. Both the state and federal trials of the Klansmen ended in acquittals. They were found to have shot in self-defense. The episode is still a sore point in Greensboro.
The Klan marched in Chapel Hill in 1987 when I was struggling to finish my sixth year as an undergraduate. According a New York Times article, there were 63 Ku Klux Klan members. My recollection is vague but I seem to remember far more protestors and hecklers than Klan. Photos show people from little kids to old men.
When I lived in Shelby in the mid 1990s, the Klan had an active group from Ellenboro in Rutherford County. Again, they weren’t very bright people. They rode around in a late model Cadillac or Buick decked out with Klan emblems and flying Confederate flags. They held a rally in downtown Shelby on a Saturday morning and nobody but the Klansmen and me showed up. It was quite stark with an empty town square and a half dozen or so inbred-looking Klan members being protected from nobody by black cops.
The Klan has always been here and probably always will be. The ones today are an ignorant group of losers who believe their lives would be better if we could only get rid of the blacks, Jews and Mexicans and let whites run the country again. They’re too dumb to realize that even if their perverted dream came true, they’d still be at the bottom of the heap.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >