History of the KKK in NNY Talk

When we think about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) most people think about confederate flags and the Jim Crow era in the South. Few people realize that literally thousands of people attended Klan rallies right here in St Lawrence County.

A presentation on this local history, The KKK in St. Lawrence County, will be hosted by the Potsdam Presbyterian Church and Black Lives Matter Potsdam. The talk will be held outdoors on the church grounds at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27.

Featured speakers will be local author and DeKalb Town Historian Bryan Thompson and John D. Youngblood, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, English, and Communications at SUNY Potsdam.

Thompson will share his research on the development of the second Ku Klux Klan in St Lawrence County in the 1920s and regional KKK activities, holding rallies and cross burnings targeting Black, Catholic, and Jewish communities. Klan rallies were attended by up to 5,000 people in Ogdensburg at its peak, and the organization was involved in local and state politics.

In more recent times, a notable incident took place in 1960, when four Norwood-Norfolk Citizenship Education Teachers teachers burned a cross in Potsdam. In 2014, flyers appeared in Jefferson County promoting a Klan “neighborhood watch”, and just recently a Black child was assaulted on a school bus, racist graffiti has been found in multiple locations in St. Lawrence County, a racist hate message was posted to the Potsdam Presbyterian church Instagram page, and a noose was left in the yard of a Black family.

Dr. Youngblood will pick up with some of these more current events, in a portion of the talk on the “Many Forms of Race-Based Terror,” in which he will connect the dots of the distinct acts of racist individuals with the “systemic racism of government agencies, the institutional racism of businesses who have been confronting the messaging and activities they have sanctioned in the past, and the recent normalization of the White Nationalist Movement in various levels of society.”

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held outdoors as dusk settles on the church lawn, at 42 Elm Street. Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather and to bring a lawn chair. Masks and social distancing requirements will be applied.

In the event of poor weather, the “rain date” will be one week later on September 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Street parking is available on Elm Street, with spots being held open for attendees with mobility issues.

A follow up program will also be held in the same location on September 10th, but earlier at 7 p.m., on the topic of the Abolitionist Movement and Underground Railroad in St. Lawrence County. Contact blm.noco@gmail.com for more information.