KIMT News 3 – One of the most notorious groups of American history is in the process of new branding, but some say the message of the Ku Klux Klan will never change.
The year is 1920 and the United States is in the midst of a revival like never before.
The “Roaring Twenties” saw immigrant families making the journey to find new life in the now booming economy and the great migration of African-Americans to northern cities increased their visibility all throughout the country.
With great triumphs however, comes great fear that the country will not be the same.
“You gain power by finding an enemy. Look for an enemy and you’ll find one if you can and, you encourage people to believe this,” said Terry Harrison, archivist with the Mason City Public Library.
In the early twenties, a radical group known as the Ku Klux Klan reemerged as nothing more than a fraternity of men who were fed-up with the changing America they once loved.
Soon, with enough support, that fraternity would grow into a movement with millions around the country who shared the same values.
They were White, Anglo-Saxian, Protestant and fueled by the ever-changing demographics of the New World.
Terry Harrison is an a historian of Mason City who has studied the KKK for years, only to find that the Klan wasn’t nearly as far removed from the Midwest as he once thought.
“They brought out people, they gave them a good time. Showed them that they were really good guys after all. They had all these great things and that they were just really good Americans and they were for America first,” said Harrison.
With a little digging, Terry was able to discover years of Klan history within Mason City and north Iowa where at one point hundreds of Klansmen were reported.
Many of whom traveled North from Missouri or South from Minnesota.
Elizabeth Haltle is a Mason City native and author of the book, The Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota.
Today she shares stories of how the Klan comes to power in these small communities and goes on to eventually influence politics in both states.
“In the 1920’s, they make the point of getting on the school boards and city councils. Here they could make changes that supported their views,” said Hatle.
Statesmen, local law enforcement and even clergymen, no group seemed out of reach for the KKK’s message of intolerance and segregation.
By the 1930’s, turbulent times forced heavily by the Great Depression helped to temporarily disband the group.
In the past five years however, fliers began littering unsuspecting streets around the country.
From Oregon, to Indiana and even back in Iowa as close as Charles City, messages claiming a more modern KKK shocked communities now more racially diverse then ever before.
So, after doing some research of my own, I came across thousands of websites claiming to have ties to the KKK but one name remained constant.
Frank Ancona is the Imperial Wizard of the modern strain of the KKK that refers to themselves as the American Traditionalist Knights.
He personally took responsibility for many of the fliers distributed in Iowa as soon as last year.
So my question to him was why now and why Iowa?
“It’s always been a state of interest. It used to be a really strong Klan state back in the 20’s to early 30’s and I believe it’s got the potential to be that way again,” said Ancona.
Ancona lives a life very open to the public and his ideas have been widely criticized within his own brotherhood.
His message of “equal but separate” may make Ancona one-of-a kind when it comes to representing the KKK, but in his eyes it’s the direction the group must take.
“Just like we are having this conversation right now. Just because you’re a black guy, doesn’t mean that I have to hate you. There’s no reason that we couldn’t be friends. I don’t hide what we believe, because I think our views are valid and a lot of people feel the way that we feel, and again we do not hate other people,” said Ancona.
Can it be possible for a group to preach white pride but not focus on hate through segregation?
For some, it’s a tough sell.
“It’s still the same thing. Interracial marriage is good for somebody else versus I’m not going to have it happen in my family or you can even look at the gay marriage laws being passed from state to state. I mean, those are the kind of things where they say it’s okay but, then they’re donating money to fight it, or they’re protesting, or they’re not allowing those people to be their church members or their neighbors, or they have to live somewhere else. It’s subtle, but it’s there,” said Hatle.
“Sure. I’m sure there are people that don’t want us there but, maybe they should try to sit down and find out what the Klan is all about in this day and age,” said Ancona.
“If you only look at the advancements and, if you only look at the trials, you lose ground. What you believe often becomes more myth and less realistic. So, you really need to understand that behind every triumph, there’s probably some rough times,” said Harrison.
The Southern Poverty Law Center maps at least four active Ku Klux Klan groups between Minnesota and Iowa. One of which is active in both locations.
One group in Minnesota is said to have ties to the St. Cloud area, while in Iowa, Charles City and Ames have been reported as having active Klan groups.
For a full breakdown of the list visit the link below: