An SBI report dated July 26, 1966 gave a flavor of what those public Klan rallies were like. I expected them to sound far more sinister. But that wasn’t it at all. That afternoon a large crowd massed in a field near Chocowinity, a small town in Beaufort County. In most ways, the occasion resembled a county fair or church revival.
This is an updated version of a story that I first published in the winter 1996 issue of Southern Exposure. It’s the 3rd of an 8-post series on the Ku Klux Klan in eastern N.C. that I am putting up between now and this coming Sunday.
A local minister, the Rev. William Cox, delivered an invocation and a sermon. The crowd sang the National Anthem. Visiting dignitaries gave rousing speeches. Vendors peddled hot dogs, Coca-Colas and souvenir pins. Children my age—I was six at the time—played games on the rally’s outskirts.
The Klan leaders’ speeches stressed disdain for Washington, DC, disdain for liberals, Jews and people of color, disdain for teachers and public schools and disdain for immigrants.
The Klansmen also spoke harshly about their less well-off white neighbors and referred to them as “white trash.”
Toward twilight, the organizers held fundraising events. The men auctioned off a television set, a barbecue grill, 5 quarts of motor oil and 100 pounds of fertilizer. The ladies’ auxiliary raffled 7 cakes and a pair of homemade table lamps. Then, with the coming of night, white-robed figures burned a 15-foot-high cross, just before the crowd disappeared into the darkness.
To be continued– I’ll post part 4 later today.