The (Not So) Invisible Empire: The KKK in Southwest Minnesota in the 1920s
March 31, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Dr. Anita Talsma Gaul, history teacher at Minnesota West Community and Technical College and author of two books on local history, will present “The (Not So) Invisible Empire: The KKK in Southwest Minnesota in the 1920s” at the library on Thursday, March 31 at 7:00pm.
In a period of rapid change, many Americans felt a sense of nostalgia and fear in the 1920s – nostalgia for an idealized, simpler past and fear that America was in a state of moral decline. This prompted the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, particularly in the Upper Midwest. This “new” Klan (as opposed to the original, post-Civil War Klan) expanded its list of threats to America beyond black Americans to include Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and “degenerates.” Presenting itself as a respectable, patriotic, Christian organization, the new KKK attracted millions of new members in the 1920s.
Klan activity in Southwest Minnesota began in 1922, peaked in 1924, and virtually disappeared by 1927. The KKK seemed to be particularly active in Fairmont, Pipestone, and Lake Wilson, but Klan activity was also reported in Windom, Fulda, Chandler, Worthington, and many other area towns. Dozens of cross burnings occurred, but there were also Klan rallies, parades, picnics, meetings and speakers.
What attracted rural Minnesotans to this organization? How and why did it become popular in this area? And what accounts for its sudden demise? The brief but intense presence of the KKK in Southwest Minnesota is a hidden chapter in the region’s history and one that merits closer scrutiny.
This event is funded by the Sustaining Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Grant, which is sponsored by the ALA and NEH.