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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published March 07 2009

Halgrimson: Record of Klan’s ties to region fascinating

Recently a reader wrote to me asking if I knew anything about some records of the Ku Klux Klan that were found in the old Masonic Temple before it was razed for a parking lot in 1968. The building was located on the northwest corner of Fifth Street North and First Avenue.

Some of the Klan’s records are now housed at the Elwyn B. Robinson Department Of Special Collections in the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. I don’t know if these are the same ones that were stored at the Masonic Temple.

I did not know of these records, but I knew we had a file on the Klan’s activities in The Forum library and I decided to have a look at it.

Over the years, there has been a good deal of curiosity about the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in North Dakota and specifically in Fargo and Grand Forks. The Forum files indicate that the Klan was operating here from 1922 to 1925.

Headlines from those days tell the tale. At least part of it.

From 1922:

“KU KLUX KLAN HELD MENACE TO CHURCHES AND COUNTRY – Executive of North Dakota Congregational Conference So Holds”

“IS KU KLUX KLAN TAKING HAND IN STATE CAMPAIGN? CAMOUFLAGED AS ANSAX CLUB ITS MEMBERS ARE PLEDGED TO OPPOSE FRAZIER AND O’CONNOR”

(Republican Lynn J. Frazier won against Democrat J.F.T. O’Connor in the race for election to the U.S Senate in 1922.)

“SHADOW OF KU KLUX KLAN GROWS LARGER IN CONGRESS AND NATION – Seventy-Five Members of the House Reported Elected by Its Votes – Well-Known Legislators Defeated – Growth in Indiana and Other Northern States Deemed Significant.”

In 1923, the North Dakota Legislature passed a bill outlawing the wearing of masks or hoods in front of a public building by anyone older than 15 in order to hide their identity.

In 1924 when the Klan was active in North Dakota it had become a national political power with 4 million members. They were dedicated to opposing African-Americans, Catholics, Jews and anyone who was not a native born Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

Fast forward to 1925 headlines.

Sept. 15, 1925:

“Klan Officials Predict 30,000 Will Attend Conclave in Fargo”

Sept. 20, 1925:

“8,000 ATTEND CELEBRATION AS KLANSMEN PUT ON RITES – Between 750 and 800 Men and Women Participate in Parade – MAYOR WELCOMES MEMBERS TO CITY – Imperial Wizard Pays Tribute to Rapid Development of N.D.

“Wearing their white robes and hoods, but with faces uncovered as required by North Dakota state law, the Ku Klux Klan paraded the streets of Fargo last night, as the feature event of the North Dakota state conclave, which opened yesterday. …”

During the conclave, speakers aimed attacks on Jews and Catholics saying that these groups used their strength to gain political power.

Fargo Mayor J.H. Dahl welcomed the Ku Klux Klan saying, “The City of Fargo welcomes all strangers and visitors to the biggest little city in the world. As a city we take no stand either for or against any movement, which has its supporters and its antagonists.”

About this time the movement began to wane. However, during the Civil Rights Movement, the Klan again began to grow. Its Web site tells us that today “The Ku Klux Klan is THE only organization dedicated to preserving white culture! We stand for family values, the American Constitution, freedom of religion and western culture. We stand for the values of our nations forefathers. … The ideals of the Ku Klux Klan have hardly ever been more relevant.”

However, I do not think the Klan is any less dangerous today than it was when they burned churches, schools and crosses and drove thousands of people from their homes after the Civil War.


Source: Forum files, Institute for Regional Studies; www.kukluxklan.bz/; www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_org_kkk.html; www.und.nodak.edu/dept/library/Collections/og598.html


Readers can reach Forum writer Andrea Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com