Today, December 22, The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, reported on Friday’s meeting of the Ku Klux Klan in Cecil County, Maryland. Said hooded member Richard Preston, who encouraged local support for the Klan and to work towards shedding the hate group image, in response to questions, “We can only ask you to trust us.”
The Eastern Shore has a history of racist vigilante groups. In 1890, the Peninsula Enterprise reported on Onancock, Virginia, on “a band of white men, styling themselves ‘regulators,'” which summarily “dealt with” local African Americans. And there are reported accounts of bands of men elsewhere attacking people.
Beginning 1915, the KKK nationwide had a resurgence, described as a revival under new leadership, at the time of the inflammatory popular movie The Birth of a Nation. During the early 1920s, the Eastern Shore was the focus of a membership drive when Dr. J. H. Hawkins of Atlanta, Georgia, toured the Eastern Shore areas of Maryland and Delaware, spoke to large crowds, and encouraged the creation of new chapters and increased membership. Regional events were organized, including a huge event outside of Sharptown, Maryland, with Klan delegations gathering from all over the Eastern Shore.
For a time, in 1924, the Princess Anne, Maryland, newspaper Marylander & Herald set aside an entire page for Klan news and advertisements. In my research of newspapers, I did not specifically search for references to the local KKK, but numerous articles were noticed during that period. So it is not clear the KKK organization or involvement prior to that time or since. And naturally, involvement of KKK members in local incidents of that time is not known. But throughout the early twentieth century, bands of men or posses were known to scour the countryside in search of African Americans and newspapers reported on concerns that African Americans would be lynched. And of course, one might ponder how many unh00ded or non-card-carrying-KKK-members of the community participated in the official and unofficial posses.
Yes, the Eastern Shore has a long history of the Ku Klux Klan. But a community, when faced with the occasional public display or resurgence, regardless of the message, ought to think long and hard about what underlying issues of hate and intolerance are contributing to these outbursts. And no, I don’t think the Klan can shed its hate group image. And no amount of rhetoric of “it’s not about racism” can hide the truth that racism continues.
— Linda Duyer