When the KKK and the NAACP meet

 

 It was a boring white envelope.

Opened, like all letters at my workplace as a security precaution.

This in my mailbox deemed safe to view.

Inside, two white pages with black type, and a letterhead: “Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” words spread around a pair of wings spread wide from a red, white and black shield logo.

“Mr. Fugleberg,” it began.

As a journalist, I get a lot of emails, phone calls and letters.

Communication — it’s what I do. Boring, right?

Well, then the letter from the Ku Klux Klan arrived.

The letter, sent from a Park Hills, Mo., post office box, came just days after I stood in the room as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the KKK met for the first time, over Labor Day weekend on a Saturday, covering a moment in time for the Casper Star-Tribune.

It was a meeting that wasn’t likely to happen. The NAACP doesn’t make it a habit of meeting with the Klan on race relations. 

That’s when the KKK guy walked into the room – a small hotel meeting room in Casper, Wyo. 

Meet John Abarr, a kleagle, or organizer, for the United Klans of America. Abarr is based in Great Falls, Mont., but visited Wyoming on the behest of UKA Imperial Wizard Bradley Jenkins. What took place over the next couple of hours was one of the more awkward meetings I’ve attended. The NAACP sought to understand the Klan’s presence in Wyoming, after a number of hate-based attacks and brochures cropped up in Wyoming.

Abarr wasn’t too helpful. He claimed he didn’t know anything. But he was happy to press his case for why he wanted whites and other races to live separately. Perhaps even splitting off northwestern states from the rest of the U.S. as a white enclave.

I don’t think the NAACP got the answers it wanted regarding KKK activity in Wyoming, but the meeting itself was historic. In the days following, the story spread around the globe. I cranked up Skype for interviews with several radio stations around the U.S. and on National Public Radio and the BBC World Service. Everyone seemed confounded that the meeting took place. I did my best to explain what I had seen. 

I told them: Wyoming isn’t a hotbed of Klan activity. That’s why the NAACP was so surprised by KKK literature showing up in the state.

In the days that followed, I heard new reports of Klan literature showing up in Casper, and in Cheyenne, Wyoming’s capital city. The Klan was still here.

Then the letter, signed “DLW” – the imperial kaltrop of the Traditionalist American Knights Of The Ku Klux Klan. 

It concluded, with a poor sense of punctuation: “Mr. Abarr stated he did not think there were any active Klan groups in Casper, well Mr. Fugleberg that is why it is called the invisible empire.”

It finished: “God Bless.”

I still don’t know all I wish I did, but that’s the fun part: This story’s not over.

Jeremy Fugleberg was editor of The Collegian from 2006-2007. He finished his last SDSU class in 2008, earning a double B.S. in mass communication and political science. He is now the interim editor of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune. His daughter Alaina is five years away