Remembering a monument that remembered the Klan

“In 1926, the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument to the Ku Klux Klan in a town [Concord] just outside Charlotte, North Carolina. Though the marker itself seems to have been lost to time—or more precisely, to the urbanization and shrubbery that has sprouted around it—proof of its existence endures thanks to the UDC’s own meticulous record-keeping. In 1941, a local division of the group published North Carolina’s Confederate Monuments and Memorials, a book that handily compiles various tributes to the Confederacy from around the state, many of them the UDC’s own handiwork. Writer James Huffman got his hands on a first pressing, in which he noted the monument’s inscription:

“ ‘In commemoration of the “Ku Klux Klan” during the Reconstruction period following the “War Between the States,” this marker is placed on their assembly ground. Erected by the Dodson-Ramseur chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 1926.’ ”

— From “Time to expose the women still celebrating the Confederacy” by Kali Holloway in the Daily Beast (Nov. 2)

 

Ex-member: ‘The Klan don’t have no program’

On this day in 1965: Roy Woodle, bricklayer and itinerant preacher, tells a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee that the Ku Klux Klan is a “fake” organization that preaches “good things” — segregation and Christianity — but does nothing about them. Its true purpose, he says, is furnishing its leaders with “Cadillacs, rib-eye steaks . . . and first-class motel rooms.”

Woodle says he recently quit the Klan after serving as chaplain (grand kludd) for North Carolina.

The Klan has grown, he says, by promising “victory, that the schools wouldn’t integrate. But the Klan don’t have no program.”

Woodle is one of more than a dozen Klan witnesses from North Carolina called to testify; most refuse. The hearings are in response to President Johnson’s call for a congressional investigation of the Klan after the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo in Alabama.

 

Klan table decor: ‘American flags and electric crosses’

“WALLACE, N.C. — Wallace Klan No. 38 recently staged a big parade and naturalization ceremony. The parade was formed at the high school building in the light of a fiery cross and marched through the principal streets of the town, returning to the athletic field near the high school.

“A large class of candidates was naturalized [initiated], the impressive ceremony being open to the public. One of the National lecturers then discussed the ideals and principles of Klankraft. It was heard with interest by the large audience.

“After the ceremony and address, a banquet was served at the Klavern. The table was decorated with American flags and electric crosses. Several brief talks were made by Klansmen and music was furnished by the Wallace Klan band.”

— From “Stage Parade and Naturalization” in the Fellowship Forum (date unknown; clipping found at flea market)

The Fellowship Forum was a national Klan publication popular in the 1920s.

 

NC Klansmen had limits to their anti-Catholicism

“….Moderate, fraternal-minded or skittish Klansmen… had no stomach for the vituperative anti-Catholicism promoted by Klan lecturers…

“Even some hooded officials harbored reservations about the bigoted logic of white Protestant nationalism….In 1927, Imperial Wizard [Hiram Wesley] Evans tried to force North Carolina Klan officials to place bills before the state legislature invalidating ‘prenuptial agreements regarding education of children’ in mixed Catholic-Protestant marriages and outlawing membership in the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. Tar Heel Klansmen rebelled against the directive, and some cut their ties with the national organization….”

— From “One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s” by Thomas R. Pegram (2011)

 

Thomas Dixon, D.W. Griffith and Quentin Tarantino

Henry Louis Gates: [Django Unchained] is an opposite extreme of The Birth of a Nation. Did that play a conscious role in your mind? Reversing the depiction of slavery that The Birth of a Nation registered?

Quentin Tarantino: Yeah, you have to understand, I’m obsessed with The Birth of a Nation and its making.

HLG: Why?

QT: I think it gave rebirth to the Klan and all the blood that was spilled throughout — until the early ’60s, practically. I think that both Rev. Thomas Dixon Jr. and D.W. Griffith, if they were held by Nuremberg Laws, they would be guilty of war crimes for making that movie because of what they created there.

I’ve read about its making. I’ve read the book that just got published on Rev. Dixon a little bit ago, American Racist, which was a very disturbing book — more disturbing because I hated him forever, and the book made me actually understand him a little bit, when it is much easier to think of him as a monster. That’s not pleasant — things aren’t as easy, unfortunately, when you dive into things with a microscope.

But I’ve written a big piece that I’ve never finished that is about the thought process that would go into making The Birth of a Nation, and you know, it’s one thing for the grandson of a bloody Confederate officer to bemoan how times have changed — some old racist Southern old-timer bemoaning how life has changed, complaining that there was a day when you never saw a n—– on Main Street, and now you do. Well, if he’s just going to sit on his porch and sit in his rocking chair and pop off lies, who cares? That’s not making The Birth of a Nation every day for a year, and financing it yourself. And if you ever tried to read The Clansman [the book and play upon which The Birth of a Nation is based], it really can only stand next to Mein Kampf when it comes to just its ugly imagery.

HLG: Oh, it’s pure evil, man.

QT: It is evil! And I don’t use that word lightly. It was one of the most popular touring plays of its day.

HLG: And a foundational moment in the history of cinema.

QT: Oddly enough, where I got the idea for the Klan guys [in Django Unchained] — they’re not Klan yet, the Regulators arguing about the bags [on their heads] — as you may well know, director John Ford was one of the Klansmen in The Birth of a Nation, so I even speculate in the piece: Well, John Ford put on a Klan uniform for D.W. Griffith. What was that about? What did that take? He can’t say he didn’t know the material. Everybody knew The Clansman at that time as a piece of material.

HLG: Right. It was a best-seller.

QT: And touring companies were doing plays of it all the time. And yet he put on the Klan uniform. He got on the horse. He rode hard to black subjugation. As I’m writing this — and he rode hard, and I’m sure the Klan hood was moving all over his head as he was riding and he was riding blind — I’m thinking, wow. That probably was the case. How come no one’s ever thought of that before? Five years later, I’m writing the scene and all of a sudden it comes out.

HLG: So 98 years later, you’ve deconstructed The Birth of a Nation through Django….

— From “Tarantino ‘Unchained,’ Part 1: ‘Django’ Trilogy?” (Dec. 23, 2012, The Root)

 

Shouting down Klansman violated ‘noblest traditions’

On this day in 1975: Black hecklers prevent David Duke, a little-known Ku Klux Klansman from Louisiana, from speaking at the University of North Carolina’s Memorial Auditorium.

Chancellor Ferebee Taylor calls the incident “a transgression of one of the highest and noblest traditions of this institution.”

Duke will go on to form the National Association for the Advancement of White People in 1980, be elected to the Louisiana legislature in 1989, challenge incumbent George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate and House seats in 1996 and 1999, respectively.

 

Klan thuggery forces end to Moore’s mugwumpery

On this day in 1966: The same day that Martin Luther King Jr. addresses without incident a crowd of 4,500 at Raleigh’s Reynolds Coliseum, Ku Klux Klansmen in boots and helmets jeeringly remove blacks from a Klan rally at Nash Square.

The incident will force Gov. Dan K. Moore, who has tried to treat the Klan and civil rights advocates with equal wariness, to condemn “an attempt by swaggering demagogues to terrorize, intimidate or assume synthetic authority and threaten the dignity of the law.” Previously Moore had ventured no further than to say the Klan “has nothing of value to offer North Carolina.”

 

Lumbees give thumbs down to ‘Why I Am for Segregation’

On this day in 1958: Lumbee Indians, upset about two recent cross-burnings near their homes, break up a Ku Klux Klan rally in Robeson County. Klan leader James “Catfish” Cole planned to speak on “Why I Am for Segregation,” but the program is cut short by gunfire, firecrackers and teargas grenades thrown by sheriff’s deputies. One Klansman is charged with public drunkenness.

Life magazine gives the ruckus national attention with eight photos under the headline “Bad Medicine for Klan.”

Durham parade ousts Klan float in name of ‘harmony’

On this day in  1928: At the request of American Legion officials, Durham police remove a Ku Klux Klan float from line in the annual Armistice Day parade. The float bears the letters “KKK” and two white-draped figures representing “Purity” and “Honesty.”

“Since our post is composed of men of all classes and all religious faiths ” a Legion official tells the Durham Morning Herald, “participation by the Klan in our parade would throw the entire picture out of harmony.”

 

Klan had public support in enforcing morality

“While black victims of the Klan had no hope of  justice, most white victims had little more. Indeed, ‘through fear or shame,’  few of the Klan’s white victims reported to legal authorities….

“A North Carolinian opponent of the Klan later explained that much of its support derived from a public consensus that the whites ‘they punished had a whole lot lacking in their character and they deserved some punishment.’  According to him, non-Klan white residents would point to people ‘leading these immoral lives, and they’ve been doing it for 10 years and the children out there are suffering and nothing’s being done about it. So the Klan did something about; they put the whip to them.’ Neighbors like these were unlikely to indict or convict.”

— From “Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan” by David Mark Chalmers (1987)