One Small Step: KKK and NAACP Representatives Meet in Wyoming
Hatred and mistrust were set aside for one evening in Casper, Wyoming, where representatives of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Ku Klux Klan sat down and talked.
It took months to arrange the August 31 meeting between the historic enemies, and while the discussion was civil, no new understandings were reached.
But the meeting took place, and in the eyes of some observers, that was enough.
Those attending the meeting inside a Parkway Plaza hotel conference room were four members of the NAACP’s Casper branch, which initiated the get together, and John Abarr, an organizer for the United Klans of America.
Security was also on hand.
Jimmy Simmons, president of the NAACP local chapter, contacted the KKK about a meeting after hearing reports of assaults on black men accompanying white women in Gillette. Around the same time, Klan literature began appearing around town.
Simmons thought about holding a rally, but instead decided to reach out to Klan leaders to talk.
“If you want to talk about hate, get a hater,” Simmons told the Casper Star Tribune. “Let him tell you something about hate.”
Both Simmons and Abarr got pushback from people within their organizations who opposed the meeting. Still, they went through with it.
Abarr—who, in 2011, ran a truncated campaign for a U.S. congressional seat—presented himself as a person opposed to hate and racism, claiming to be a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the watchdog group the Southern Poverty Law Center. And before the meeting was over, he wrote out a check and filled out a membership form to join the NAACP.
He also talked about his preference for Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon to secede and form a “white” territory. Blacks already living in the states could remain, Abarr said.
The Klansman called the beatings in Gillette a hate crime, and said something should be done about them.
At least one NAACP member in attendance, Mel Hamilton, wasn’t buying Abarr’s talk of the Klan being kinder and friendlier to blacks.
“It’s obvious you don’t know the history of your organization,” Hamilton reportedly said at the meeting. “It’s obvious to me that you’re not going out and talking about the good—you’re not talking about inclusion, you’re talking about exclusion. And it’s obvious to me you don’t know what you are. “So I don’t know what good this dialogue has done tonight,” he added.
To Learn More:
In a Possible First and Under Heavy Security, KKK and NAACP Meet in Casper (by Jeremy Fugleberg, Casper Star-Tribune)
Why is the FBI Still Hiding Information about the Assassination of Martin Luther King? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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