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Arts & Life

Take a Moment: Remembering the day hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members marched in South Dakota

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NPR
The Klu Klux Klan, 1923

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

On this day in 1927, about 500 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched through downtown Sioux Falls. The KKK was widely known for racism and anti-Semitism, and many Klansmen in South Dakota were anti-Catholic.

The original incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan was in Tennessee following the U.S. Civil War. The hate group was revived in 1915 in the southern states and also formed chapters in the north, including in South Dakota. Many communities had a local unit of the KKK known as a "Klavern."

In Deadwood and Lead they were fueled by hatred of Chinese laborers who worked in the mines. In South Dakota Ku Klux Klan hate extended beyond the Chinese laborers to African Americans, Jewish South Dakotans, and Catholics. In 1921 a Catholic priest was murdered in Lead.

In 1924, there was a documented Klan gathering in Sioux Falls that led to the march of about 500 members three years later. The Ku Klux Klan in South Dakota faded away by 1930, due largely to Great Depression and public opposition.

There have been reports since of KKK activity at the Sturgis Motorcycle rally, and in 2014, homes and businesses in Hill City were blanketed with flyers printed with the words "What is a Klansman?" that urged people to join an order called the "Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan".

But it was on this day 94 years ago when the Ku Klux Klan marched in downtown Sioux Falls.

Production assistance for this day in South Dakota history comes from Brad Tennant, Ph.D., Professor of History at Presentation College.