Durham County

When was the last time the KKK marched in the Triangle?

Counter-protesters march in downtown Durham after rumors of a KKK rally

Protesters march in downtown Durham after rumors of a reported KKK rally.
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Protesters march in downtown Durham after rumors of a reported KKK rally.

The last time the Ku Klux Klan marched in the Triangle was in the 1980s.

The Klan marched in Durham and Chapel Hill in 1987, according to the New York Times. The Klan also marched in Raleigh in 1985.

The Klan marched June 14, 1987 in Durham and Chapel Hill, the Times reported. Twelve people, including at least three Klansmen, were arrested, according to the report.

About 63 people took part in the 20-minute march and membership rally.

Fifteen rifles, a stun baton and several knives were taken from Klansmen, who were prohibited by a parade permit from carrying weapons during the parade, the newspaper quoted a Durham police officer as saying.

Three Klansmen were arrested, two on charges of weapons violations. Others faced drug and disorderly conduct charges, the police said.

About 40 of the marchers moved on to Chapel Hill, where an estimated 2,000 people lined the parade route and heckled them. Three people were arrested in that march, the police said.

The Klan did march in Roxboro on Dec. 3, 2016, labeling the event a “victory parade” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president.

Local officials closed down a portion of Main Street in Durham after rumors that the Klan planned a march Friday. The latest Klan march comes six days after a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent, and four days after protesters toppled a Confederate monument at the Durham courthouse.

According to estimates by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Klan reached its all-time membership high in 1925 with an estimated 4 million members. The SPLC estimates there are now between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members split among an estimated 130 Klan groups throughout the U.S.

The SPLC says there are 31 Klan chapters in North Carolina, a sizeable number but not by far, the most in the U.S. California leads all U.S. states with 79 chapters, Florida is next with 63, Texas third with 55, New York fourth with 47, Virginia fifth with 42, Pennsylvania sixth with 40, Tennessee seventh with 38, Ohio eighth with 35, Georgia and Illinois tied for ninth with 32 and North Carolina eleventh with its 31.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1


1868 Klan first appears in North Carolina.

▪  1868-71 Three Klan groups operate in North Carolina. Functioning independently, the three have largely autonomous local leadership, though they often have overlapping memberships. The White Brotherhood, numbering 600-700, and the Constitutional Union Guard, numbering about 100, are centered in the Alamance County area. The Invisible Empire is centered in Cleveland and Rutherford counties.

▪  Feb. 26, 1870 Graham town commissioner Wyatt Outlaw, an African-American, is lynched by a band of Klansmen, leading to the Kirk-Holden War of 1870.

▪  July 1870 Gov. William Woods Holden declares a state of insurrection in Alamance and Caswell counties. Nearly 100 Klan suspects are arrested but none are tried.

▪  November 1870 White supremacists gain control of the General Assembly and impeach Holden for using the militia against the Klan.

▪  March 1871 Holden is removed from office.

▪  1905 North Carolinian Thomas Dixon publishes the novel “The Clansman,” which would be the basis for D.W. Griffith’s film “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915.

▪  1930 Bob Jones is born outside Salisbury. His father is a railroad worker, and both parents are active in the Ku Klux Klan. Jones would later brag that his mother proudly marched in a Klan parade when she was seven months pregnant with him. He would become “Grand Dragon” of the state organization.

▪  Summer 1952 crackdown on the Ku Klux Klan in Columbus County and Horry County, S.C. The Tabor City Tribune and Whiteville News Reporter, two weekly newspapers in Columbus County, were awarded the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for the coverage of the case and their role in helping to bring down the Klan’s strong presence in the area.

▪  January 18, 1958 Ku Klux Klan stages a rally in the Robeson County town of Maxton to protest what members called race mixing in the county. A group of Lumbee Indians surrounds the outnumbered Klan members and drives them off without any casualties. Their victory is featured in a Life magazine photo the following week.

▪  July 1963 Jones petitions the United Klans of America for a charter to organize in North Carolina. Robert Shelton sends Robert Scoggin, the Grand Dragon of South Carolina, to meet with Jones and others in Salisbury. Jones is granted a provisional charter into the UKA and appointed temporary Grand Dragon.

▪  Aug. 17, 1963 North Carolina Klansmen elect Jones as their state’s first Grand Dragon.

▪  October 1965 Public hearings held by the House Un-American Activities Committee call North Carolina the most active state for the United Klans of America.

▪  July 31, 1966 A Klan rally is held in downtown Raleigh to protest the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech before a crowd of nearly 5,000 at N.C. State University’s Reynolds Coliseum. About 1,500 gather at Memorial Auditorium earlier in the day. Robed marchers make their way to Nash Square for speeches and then on to the State Capitol.

▪  Aug. 14, 1966 The United Klans of America holds a rally at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh to support Jones and other Klan leaders facing federal prison sentences for contempt of Congress. More than 300 police officers from across the state are on hand to control the crowd of more than 5,000.

▪  October 1966 The Klan operates a booth at the N.C. State Fair to distribute information.

▪  1969 Bob Jones is convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over subpoenaed Klan financial records. He is fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year in federal prison. In his absence, Joe Bryant becomes the acting Grand Dragon for North Carolina.

▪  March 26, 1977 A billboard on U.S. 70 near Smithfield promoting the KKK is dismantled. Klansmen brandish shotguns and hurl rocks at photographers to discourage them from recording the event. The sign, which had stood for 10 years, welcomed motorists to Smithfield and invited them to join and support United Klans of America.

▪  Nov. 3, 1979 A “Death to the Klan” march in Greensboro results in a shootout between members of the Communist Workers Party, the Ku Klux Klan and a neo-Nazi group, leaving five dead.

Compiled by Anne Blythe, The News & Observer

Sources: PBS “American Experience,” N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, N&O archives