Friday, February 17, 2012

First Encounters: Atlanta and the KKK

Southern Regional Council Collection
Auburn Avenue Research Library Archives Division

I don’t know much about the Ku Klux Klan.  Today at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, I saw a photograph from the 1940s of members of the Klan in buses.  They were on their way to perform initiation rites on Stone Mountain.  The buses were chartered from the city of Atlanta.  The Klansmen look normal in their suits and hats.  The buses are all lined up and waiting for their last passengers before leaving.  It seems eerie that this photo was taken right downtown in Atlanta.  The Klansmen surprise me that they were en masse in public and that their buses were assisted by policemen who cleared traffic.
From watching footage of Klansmen in documentaries and in movies, I’ve learned to be wary of them.  But looking at this photo, where they appear like regular people, I don’t fear them.  However, if I had been there on the day that this photo was taken, I would have been in awe of these men who chose to be part of the Klan.  I would hope that they wouldn’t attack me physically or with verbal insults.
As a former New Yorker, I can say that the majority of the people of New York have reservations about the South due to perceived racism, former slavery, and other things that divide the North and the South culturally.  Before moving to Georgia, I was worried about encountering bigotry and racism.  Georgia has its share of problems, but it is like anywhere with people who try live together in harmony.
I am blind to many bad things that happen.  I tend to concentrate on what is positive than on what is negative.  Bigotry and racism are still problems of the world, but the Ku Klux Klan seems to be less of a problem these days.
I don’t know how I would react if I suddenly encountered a Klan member today.  Would I even believe the person?  Does the Klan still act today or are they… dead as an organization?  I know it is better not to fear others, but having never witnessed Klan activity, I will only know my reaction if I encounter them.  I hope that I could counter them with peace, love, and justice.

Posted by Aaron Brown, San Jose State University/MLIS Graduate Student
AARL Intern

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