by Joseph Back
Bring up the words ‘Ku Klux Klan,’ and most think of one or two things:
• An otherwise defunct organization suppressed by the federal government in the Reconstruction era, or
• Opposition to civil rights in the South circa 1960 A few might throw in Sherlock Holmes and “The Five Orange Pips,” a fictional story about an Englishman and his descendants, haunted by the Englishman’s stateside past.
Lesser known but worth noting is the more local history, when the Klan saw a nationwide resurgence and moved north from 1915 onwards, reaching Wisconsin by 1922. Area residents can soon learn about this lesser-known part of history, thanks to a free presentation at the Stanley Area Historical Society September 17. The presentation to take place at 1 p.m. will tell how the Klan spread and its influence in the area, with agents known as “Kleagles” fanning out across the state and finding a ready au dience.
With adherents taught to oppose Catholics, Jews, and immigrants among others, the initiation fee of $10 was low enough to entice many, with effects then being felt in the social sphere. Building on its past as it spread, the Klan of the early 20s preached nativism and benefitted from a then current understanding of his tory, that considered the Reconstruction era to be a mistake.
Insofar as history rhymes, knowing such history can help one recognize how events like the Klan’s resurgence in the 1920s happened. The end of such things, is rarely like the beginning phases.
The free historical presentation is September 17 at 1 p.m. at 228 Helgerson Street.