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100 Years Ago

Black History
Civil War
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Ku Klux Klan

The KKK, a group of white secret societies, traces its roots back to Pulaski, Tennessee, circa 1865, when a group of Confederate Army veterans organized to oppose the advancement of blacks, Jews, and other minority groups. They concealed their identities beneath robes and hoods, and often used violence and terrorism in an attempt to achieve their aims. Crosses were burned to intimidate minorities and non-members. After the Civil War they threatened, beat, and murdered many blacks and their white sympathizers. Its membership grew rapidly throughout the South until the passage of the Force Bill (1871) gave the President the authority to use federal troops against the Klan. Following this action, they almost disappeared, resurfacing again in the early 1900s.

The new Klan, organized by a former Methodist clergyman in 1915, targeted groups it considered to be un-American, including blacks, immigrants, Jews and Roman Catholics. By the 1920s, it had over 2 million members nationwide and had become a powerful force across the South, in the West and Northern U.S. It was particularly strong in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Oregon, Indiana and Ohio. Its national demise in 1944 was brought about because of disagreement among the membership on the means to impose their vision of America on society. Many members objected to the terrorist tactics, beatings, whippings, murders, and hangings that identified the Klan as an unlawful hate group.

In 1946, an Atlanta physician reactivated the Klan and ushered in another period of violence and death. Klan terrorist attacks in the 1960s took many lives, including 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi, a bombed church in Alabama in which 4 black girls were killed, and, in 1979, the killing of 5 anti-Klan demonstrators in North Carolina.

"The Sidney Daily News" on April 28, 1923, reported on the Ku Klux Klan at Anna. "We have waited a week to see how sentiment was running in regard to the demonstration of the Klu[sic] Klux Klan in our village, before making any report. The result is, we find the citizens pretty much wrought up over the affair. About 95 per cent being outspoken against such demonstrations. The few who are promoting this Klan business are fast losing the respect and confidence of their friends and neighbors and are gaining nothing. We do not believe in paying any stranger or organization coming into our community $10 to prove our Americanism. Let our actions prove we are 100 per cent. We can do it by being loyal citizens to our country, to our stage and to our community; loyal to God, to our church and its teachings; loyal to our Brotherhood obligations; and above all, loyal to our home and family. What higher degree of loyalty or Americanism can any one demand? What Klansman in Anna or elsewhere can measure up to any higher standard?

fierycross.gif (10620 bytes)

"The Sidney Daily News" also reported on May 16, 1923, that a cross was burned in East Sidney (Brooklyn Avenue area, east of the river). The June 16, 1923, edition stated that the first cross had been burned at Wapakoneta, in Auglaize County.

On August 16, 1923, the local newspaper gave the following account. "All roads led to the Shelby County fair grounds Wednesday afternoon and evening when the word was passed around that the Ku Klux Klan would have a meeting during the evening and administer of the oath of a Klansman to a number of new members. Many came from a distance and by the time the ceremonies were ready to begin the grand stand at the fairgrounds was packed to overflowing the fence around the ring was lined with people and hundred of autos were parked throughout the fair grounds. It was estimated that at least 10,000 people were on the grounds."

The newspaper described the taking of the oath and ceremony, then concluded with "...three big fiery crosses were burned, several other lighted crosses appeared in view before the grand stand and the celebration ended by the appearance of a small school house and the American flag in fireworks."

harrymillerkkkinterurban.gif (14872 bytes) Harry Miller worked as a conductor and brakeman for the Western Ohio Traction Company from 1917 to 1929. He is pictured at right with what he called the KKK Special. According to Harry, "We had what we called a KKK car and that group would have a big party between St. Marys and Celina at Sandy Beach...We had to go out there for pick-up...the car traveled to Ku Klux Klan rallies between the two towns...they would burn a cross out there and have a big time."

Today, the Klan is splintered into many different factions all espousing the same hate message to blacks, Jews, immigrants and other minorities. Roman Catholics have been dropped from the target list. It is an alienated organization with a membership of approximately 6,000 individuals; primarily in the South.

As recently as December, 1997, someone apparently tried to burn a cross. It was planted next to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. Racial slurs, KKK and a swastika were written on the cross which was made of lumber and stood about five feet tall. The museum opened in 1988 and its mission is to educate others about Afro-American history and culture. Said director John Fleming, " never occurred to me that in the ‘90s in Ohio that a cross would be burned at the place where I worked."

'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge


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