The Murray County Historical Society Lunchbox Lecture will host Anita Talsma Gaul, Ph.D. on Thursday, March 12 at noon in the Murray County 4-H building on the Fairgrounds in Slayton. In an effort to accommodate all schedules, a second presentation will be held the same day at 6:30 p.m. at the Slayton Public Library. There will be no charge for both presentations, but donations are gladly accepted.
Gaul’s topic on the KKK in SW Minnesota will shed light on a little-known era of local history bringing new knowledge to bear on the topic. In a period of rapid change, many Americans in the 1920s felt a sense of nostalgia and fear – nostalgia for an idealized, simpler past and fear that America was in a state of moral decline, becoming godless and foreign. This prompted, in part, 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 now 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.
This presentation looks at Klan activity in Southwest Minnesota during the 1920s. Evidence indicates that Klan activity in the region began in 1922, peaked in 1924, and virtually disappeared by 1926. What accounts for this brief but significant period of Klan activity? What attracted rural Minnesotans to this organization? Finally, what accounts for its sudden demise?
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