Members of the Ku Klux Klan lived in every corner of Denver during the racist, anti-immigrant hate group’s brief reign in the 1920s, a new map of the members’ addresses shows.
Staff at History Colorado spent more than 300 hours logging by hand and mapping each address listed in the nearly 30,000 entries in two ledgers in the organization’s collection that document the membership of the Denver KKK chapter from approximately 1924 through 1926.
The mapping project followed the digitization of the ledgers’ contents and their publication online this spring, making the information easily accessible to the public for the first time.
There isn’t a similar map anywhere else in the United States, said Shaun Boyd, curator of archives at History Colorado.
“You can see that everywhere you went you would’ve encountered people who were associated with the Klan,” Boyd said. “They were just everywhere.”
Despite the seemingly overwhelming number of dots on the map, historian Robert Goldberg said it’s important to remember the KKK represented a minority in Denver. Approximately 30,000 names are listed in the ledgers — about 11% of Denver’s population of 256,000. The ledgers also include men who listed addresses outside of the city and some names are listed multiple times.
“The image you get is that Denver is 100% klan, and that is inaccurate,” Goldberg, a retired professor of history at the University of Utah, said of the map.
The map confirms Goldberg’s assessment in his 1981 book, “Hooded Empire: the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado,” that the Klansmen spread themselves across every corner of the city. The book was the first in-depth analysis of the ledgers’ contents and he plotted the addresses of a sample of 958 of the ledgers’ 17,000 entries on a map of Denver from 1924.
“The Klan was a cross-section of the white, male Protestant population,” Goldberg said, noting membership in that group spanned class, age and occupation.
Goldberg found four areas where Klan membership was concentrated: the Berkeley area in northwest Denver, the area between the Platte River and Cherry Creek, South Denver and Capitol Hill. For example, one block of Yates Street in the Berkeley neighborhood includes 12 addresses in the ledger. On nearby Tennyson Street, many of the addresses now occupied by restaurants, bars and boutiques once belonged to Klansmen.
Goldberg was not surprised to find addresses in and around Denver’s immigrant and Black neighborhoods from the time, including Five Points, where a majority of Denver’s Black residents lived in the 1920s.
“No neighborhood, whether wealthy, middle class, decaying, old or new, was off-limits to the klavern’s kleagles,” Goldberg wrote. Kleagles were the Klan’s recruiters and klaverns were local groups.
The KKK in Denver during that time worked as an effective political machine, installing Klansmen as Colorado’s governor, Denver’s mayor and police chief, judges, state senators and representatives. Dozens of members of the Klan worked in City Hall, the police department, the fire department and other civic institutions.
The museum imposed the addresses of the Klansmen on a map of modern Denver, so some addresses might have changed in the 100 years since the height of the KKK in the city. That can make it difficult to know whether areas on the map with few Klan addresses were resistant to the KKK or simply did not have many residential properties, Boyd said.
Despite the number of hours History Colorado staff poured into the ledgers, there are still some things they don’t understand. Some names have small symbols next to them, which historians don’t know the meaning of. Other names are crossed out. And though the ledgers were only for the Denver chapter of the KKK, some members listed addresses outside of the city.
“There’s so much about these ledgers that we don’t know,” Boyd said.
Goldberg would like to see more research conducted into how communities targeted by the Klan — Black, Latino, Catholic and Jewish communities — responded to its power in Denver.
“I’m hoping there are stories within these different communities that would help build a counternarrative” to the Klan, he said.
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