The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 7, 2013

New book documents proliferation of second-wave Ku Klux Klan as political, social group in southern MN

New book documents proliferation of second-wave Ku Klux Klan as political, social group

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The Fairmont Sentinel reported there wasn’t a single instance of disorderly conduct or trace of alcohol observed.

A passage in Hatle’s book states: “Also at the July weekend, there was a ‘living cross’ at the event composed of 250 robed Klansmen, each holding a red torch. The voices of several hundred Klanswomen, set aside from the crowd a quarter of a mile away, could be heard singing to the crowd in perfect pitch and harmony to their large audience.”

Mankato also had a KKK presence, with passages in the book indicating cross-burnings and Klan initiation ceremonies. Mankato Daily Free Press reports seemed supportive of the KKK presence, stating the group advocated the tenants of Christianity, white supremacy, protection of “pure womanhood” and the upholding of the Constitution of the United States, Hatle said.

Jessica Potter, executive director of the Blue Earth County Historical Society, said she has touched every artifact in the society’s collection, and there are no KKK photos or artifacts. When she first learned of the KKK presence here, she said she was surprised.

“You look them up today and you say, ‘They did what?’” Potter said, adding that, at the time, the group truly believed they were promoting what was right and just.

The broader context of the era shows there were actually numerous fraternal organizations, not just the KKK, Potter said. Just like the rest of the country, groups such as the Odd Fellows and numerous others were very popular during the 1920s era in southern Minnesota, brought about by Women’s Suffrage, urbanization, the “Jazz Age,” prohibition and other societal changes.

“Secret societies go back to before the turn of the century and long before that,” she said. “It’s just a different generation, and it’s how that generation thought they should act. … It’s a very different time, and it was a very active part of culture.”

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