KKK in North Dakota part 1
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The study of history can be fascinating, fun, and enlightening. Sometimes it can also be disheartening.
It was right about this time of year in 1921 that organizers from the Ku Klux Klan moved from South Dakota into North Dakota to get ready for their opening meeting in Larimore on September 7th. The Klan had gained traction in South Dakota by attacking the Nonpartisan League, a leftist organization that was prominent in North Dakota. Another strategy was to recruit Protestant ministers who were against the Roman Catholic Church.
F. Halsey Ambrose was a Presbyterian minister in Grand Forks, and he was the driving force behind the KKK in the area. He was loudmouthed about his negative feelings towards Catholics; he was also staunchly opposed to the Nonpartisan league, and he was a strong believer in the superiority of white Protestant Americans. He had published a violent attack on the Nonpartisan League called “A Sermon on Applied Socialism,” and with the backing of the Grand Forks Herald it sold more than 5,000 copies. He could also draw crowds of 1200 people to his sermons; he tripled his church’s membership single-handedly. He was the perfect man for the job of spreading prejudice in the state.
North Dakota officials did see the Klan as a threat. This became obvious in 1922 when legislators introduced a bill that would ban the wearing of masks in public. The Reverend Ambrose, who was vocal about his leadership in the KKK, traveled to Bismarck and testified against the bill for an hour. He claimed the KKK was a peaceful, patriotic association. When the bill passed, members of the Klan were outraged, but it didn’t stop them from meeting in public.
An important thing to note about the Klan in North Dakota is that there weren’t many instances of violence. On the other hand, the Klan had a considerable role in the government. Tune in tomorrow to learn how the Klan influenced politics in our region, and affected the state’s future.
Dakota Datebook written by Leewana Thomas
Ku Klux Klan in North Dakota records (http://webapp.und.edu/dept/library/Collections/og598.html)
North Dakota Studies, The Ku Klux Klan: and Investigative Report (http://www.ndstudies.org/articles/the_ku_klux_klan_in_north_dakota_investigative_report)