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Race, Respectability, and Jim Crow: African American Uplift in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Unformatted Document Text:  Todd E. Robinson Race, Respectability and Jim Crow: African American Uplift in Grand Rapids, Michigan On the evening of November 10, 1924 a stream of Ku Klux Klansmen descended on Grand Rapids poised to stage their first public rally within the city limits. The members of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, projected at nearly twenty thousand, arrived from all directions of the state for their convention held on the circus grounds located on South Hall Street. Local Klansmen and city resident Wilbur Ryman presented the request for the parade permit and assured city officials that his “organization is not in the business of violating the law.” 1 He guaranteed city commissioners that the parade would not be disorderly and Klan representatives pointed to their “orderly handling” of much larger gatherings ranging from 150,000 to 200,000 people and of recent parades in Lansing, Saginaw, Adrian, Tecumseh, Jackson and Kalamazoo as evidence of their ability to protest within the boundaries of the law. Klan members, according to a study by Joel Carpenter, traveled throughout the state of Michigan and made their presence known “in many communities with parades, picnics and campaigns to elect friendly officials.” 2 The Klan managed to infiltrate South High School and by 1919 the Klu Klux Klan established a club within the school. 3 State laws and city ordinances placed minimal restrictions on Ku Klux Klan parade demonstrations. Ironically, B. D. Carleton, a known area Klansmen, had set off three bombs just months prior in Traverse City, Michigan, which caused a theater panic, broke 1 "Ku Klux Klan To Stage Big Parade Here," Grand Rapids Herald, November 11, 1924. 2 Joel Carpenter, "Michigan's Klan in a Small Town: The Ku Klux Klan in Adrian, Michigan 1923-25," (1974). 3 "The South High Annual," (1919). 1

Authors: Robinson, Todd.
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background image
Todd E. Robinson
Race, Respectability and Jim Crow:
African American Uplift in Grand Rapids, Michigan
On the evening of November 10, 1924 a stream of Ku Klux Klansmen descended
on Grand Rapids poised to stage their first public rally within the city limits. The
members of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, projected at nearly twenty thousand,
arrived from all directions of the state for their convention held on the circus grounds
located on South Hall Street. Local Klansmen and city resident Wilbur Ryman presented
the request for the parade permit and assured city officials that his “organization is not in
the business of violating the law.”
He guaranteed city commissioners that the parade
would not be disorderly and Klan representatives pointed to their “orderly handling” of
much larger gatherings ranging from 150,000 to 200,000 people and of recent parades in
Lansing, Saginaw, Adrian, Tecumseh, Jackson and Kalamazoo as evidence of their
ability to protest within the boundaries of the law.
Klan members, according to a study by Joel Carpenter, traveled throughout the
state of Michigan and made their presence known “in many communities with parades,
picnics and campaigns to elect friendly officials.”
The Klan managed to infiltrate South
High School and by 1919 the Klu Klux Klan established a club within the school.
State
laws and city ordinances placed minimal restrictions on Ku Klux Klan parade
demonstrations. Ironically, B. D. Carleton, a known area Klansmen, had set off three
bombs just months prior in Traverse City, Michigan, which caused a theater panic, broke
1
"Ku Klux Klan To Stage Big Parade Here," Grand Rapids Herald, November 11, 1924.
2
Joel Carpenter, "Michigan's Klan in a Small Town: The Ku Klux Klan in Adrian, Michigan 1923-25,"
(1974).
3
"The South High Annual," (1919).
1


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