Tag Archives: Ku Klux Klan

Observations at a 1965 Md. Klan rally

28 Oct

The Ku Klux Klan held a large rally at the farm of George Boyle in Rising Sun, Md. November 6, 1965, in part to honor fallen Klan members. One was Dan Burros, a New York Klan leader who took his own life after a New York Times article on Klan activities in their state revealed he was Jewish. Mae Rankin attended the rally and wrote of her personal observations that resonate today as white supremacy again tries to enter the mainstream.

Klan cross blazes is Rising Sun, Md in 1965

Klan cross blazes is Rising Sun, Md in 1965

by Mae Rankin

[Originally published in the Afro American newspaper, Nov. 27, 1965]

I am really not the adventurous type, but I have a certain amount of intellectual curiosity about people and what makes them tick.

This curiosity gave me the courage to “step where angels fear to tread” and visit a certain peaceful cow pasture in Rising Sun, Md., on the evening of Nov. 6.

Rising Sun is a small town, not far from the Pennsylvania line. On the streets pleasant people greet one another in a cordial manner as they shop in the few, scattered stores.

When we stopped at the gasoline station to check the exact location of our ultimate destination, the attendant gave us directions in a friendly way.

The sky was overcast that night. It was chilly. There was an unknown something that made me feel tight and cold. It was fear, real fear.

Arriving at the rally

I shivered in spite of the friendly faces and jokes from the platform. This was a large crowd, almost two thousand people, listening receptively to the speakers.

As I looked around and observed the crowd—teenagers, young parents with small children, middle-aged men and women—I found it difficult to believe that this was a Klan rally.

But there it was, right in front of me—the large cross with the petroleum soaked canvass wound around it. And there they were—the Klansmen and Klanswomen in their unmistakable robes, which they wore with pride.

They mixed with the crowd, distributing their official publication, The Fiery Cross.’ Published by the United Klans of America, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Md. Klan honors fallen Jewish leader

Md. Klan honors fallen Jewish leader at Rising Sun rally

The speakers, visiting Klan leaders from nearby states, were presented on a  wooden platform, decorated with two black wreaths.

Underneath one was the name, Dan Burros, and under the other, Matt Murphy.

The flags were also conspicuous—American and Confederate.

Ralph E. Pryor Jr., Grand Dragon of the Delaware Klan; Roy Frankhowser, Pennsylvania Grand Dragon, and Frank Rotella, King Kleagle of the New Jersey Klan, were the principal speakers.

Vernon Naimaster of Essex, acting Grand Dragon of Maryland, said, “I’m the bus driver they were talking about.” He was referring to news releases which had stated that he was an employee of the Baltimore Transit Company.

Naimaster did not wear the Klan garb, but he was dressed in his Sunday best and seemed proud to be on this platform.

Pryor presented the various speakers. He is a former policeman, in his thirties, who said that he had worked with the Vice Squad in Wilmington.

A strong Klan

Call for an anti-Klan rally in Maryland: 1971

A flyer from a 1971 anti-Klan rally in Rising Sun, Md.

He spoke with an air of authority when he quoted the alleged ‘startling statistics—regarding the number of white women raped by colored men there. There was no question in his mind as to how this critical situation should be handled.

“The only answer is to organize a strong Klan,” he thundered.

“That’s right, that’s right,” the crowd echoed.

The visiting Klan leaders were unanimous in their hatred of President Johnson. They were furious because they were being ‘unjustly’ investigated by Washington.

Said one speaker angrily, “See this ring on my finger?” He held up his hand dramatically and paused…

“In Washington they want to know who gave it to me. Well I won’t tell them, It’s none of their business. I’ll tell you. It was my mother,” he screamed. The audience was silently sympathetic.

I looked at the audience. Teenagers were everywhere; groups of young men with hard, tight faces. Yes this was definitely their cup of tea. Hate, hate. You get points for that.

Send in leaky boat

Entrance to Town of Rising Sun, MD: 2012

The town of Rising Sun in 2012.

One speaker suggested that the only way to solve the “N__ah problem,” was to send all the “N__ahs” back to Africa…in a leaky boat.

According to another authoritative Klansman, all Jews were Communists.

Arthur Spingarn, former head of the NAACP, was feeding money from the Jews to the colored people in order to weaken America from within so that the ‘commies’ could take over. Marvin Rich of CORE, was also mentioned in this context.

The Klan leader from New York had a very special and confidential message for the audience. He had worked for the Welfare Department during the day, but the Klan had his unquestioned loyalty at night. He had been dismissed from his job, he said, and was suing for his loss of income.

Welfare Cadillacs

He sounded most convincing when he told the audience about the colored people who would drive up to the Welfare Department in their Cadillac to collect their welfare checks.

There was only one difference of opinion. One speaker stated that Daniel Burros, the New York Klansman who shot himself, was framed! Another leader stated that ‘Dan Burros was not a Jew. But for some unknown reason his parents were married in a synagogue.

“He [Burros] wanted to protect the Klan, so he shot himself, twice. That took courage. He was a white martyr, for the white race.”

Cross burning

At this point, the audience was reminded that part of the rally was to be a memorial to the Klan members who had died this year.

Md. rally salutes fallen Klansmen: 1965

Salute to fallen Klansmen

“Get away from the cross, we don’t want anyone to get burned.”

“Now, if it was a N____, that would be alright someone shouted.”

“Amen, amen,” echoed the audience.

By now all eyes were focused on the giant cross.

To most Christians this is a symbol of the brotherhood of man; to this audience it was a symbol of hatred and terror.

I shuddered, sick inside. The sky was still overcast. Now came the slow, dull sound of taps. I could barely see the long-barreled rifle which startled me as it was fired upward into the darkness.

Suddenly, the cross was in flames….

The men who applauded, “Amen, Amen,” looked like men you would meet in Anytown, USA. They wore casual flannel shirts, work pants, some wore work caps.

The women mostly working men’s wives, were dressed informally. They all listened intently. They applauded loud and long when “white womanhood” and the “purity of our white race” was reaffirmed from the platform.

The speakers were almost religious in their intensity. As they repeated one after the other that race-mixing was evil; this was mongrelization of the pure American race; that the Klan had the only answer—there echoed again loud and fervent, “Amen, Amen.”


For another personal experience, one confronting the Klan, see https://washingtonareaspark.com/2013/01/02/standing-against-the-maryland-klan-1971-a-personal-memory/

For more information and related images, see https://flic.kr/s/aHsjDhRPzT

This account was originally published in the Afro American newspaper November 27, 1965. Images have been added to give the account context.

Standing Against the Maryland Klan 1971: A Personal Memory

2 Jan
Klan Protests Black Minister In Camp Springs MD: 1966

Klan rally in Camp Springs, MD, 1966. Photo by Walter Oates. Courtesy DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

by Bob Simpson
Cross-posted at The Daily Kos

I don’t mind telling you how scared I was that morning of June 20, 1971. That was the day we were going to Rising Sun, Maryland to picket the Klan at a picnic they were sponsoring. The fear was deep and profound. Butterflies in the stomach? Well, I had a gang of scorpions brawling down there.

Sure, this was Maryland, not Mississippi. It was 1971, not a few years before when the Klan was still leaving a trail of bodies all over the South. But part of the Klan’s power was its ability to install fear in people. It was sure working on me.

So why was I going to travel through rural Maryland to picket a Klan picnic? Well, a few weeks earlier the little Maryland radical collective I belonged to had received a call. It came from a socialist group based in Wilmington, Delaware. They were members of an organization called Youth Against War and Fascism (YAWF).

They told us that the Klan had been causing trouble in a workplace where YAWF had connections, pitting workers against one another along racial lines. People were afraid and YAWF wanted to cut through that fear by standing up to the Klan. The Klan was also blanketing the tri-state area of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware with hate literature.

In 1967, the KKK had launched an arson attack on Laurel, Maryland’s small black community, sparking 3 nights of racial violence. Laurel African Americans organized armed patrols in the community until the Klansmen were arrested. The small Maryland Klan was still a potential threat and was showing signs of life again. YAWF wanted us to bring as many people as we could to Rising Sun, where the Maryland Klan traditionally had their gatherings.

St Marks Church Target of Klan in 1967

Laurel, MD church target of Klan attack in 1967.

Based out of Prince Georges County, Maryland our little group called ourselves the Mother Bloor Collective, after an early 20th century American radical. Most of us had been associated with University of Maryland Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in our student days. Early in its history, around 1964-1965, University of Maryland SDS had confronted the Klan in Prince Georges County at open housing protests, so we were part of a tradition.

Several of us (including me) were also union activists. I belonged to the Washington Teacher Union (AFT) and we had several people in AFSCME. We also had friends and allies all over the DC area. We knew that the greater our numbers, the better our chance to confront the Klan successfully.

Maryland, My Maryland: A legacy of white supremacy

Although now considered a generally blue liberal state, Maryland was not always like that. Just check out the state song with its pro-Confederate, anti-Lincoln lyrics. Located south of the Mason-Dixon Line but north of the Old Confederacy, Maryland has been contested racial terrain since it was founded as one of the 13 original colonies.

Maryland’s racial nightmares began in the 17th century when European colonists defeated the Piscataway and the other Native American nations of the Chesapeake region with guns and disease. Maryland soon turned to chattel slavery to develop an economy heavily dependent on the drug trade, i.e. tobacco. This was racialized slavery based on naked white supremacy.

Enslaved Marylanders resisted whenever they could, the most famous being Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman who both  joined the abolitionist movement. Harriet Tubman supported armed revolution against slavery and was one of the conspirators involved in supporting John Brown’s raid.  By the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, half of Maryland’s black population was already free because of opposition to slavery and the decline of the tobacco-based economy.

As the outbreak of Civil War approached in 1861, Maryland’s loyalty teetered between Union and Confederate. Lincoln resorted to preventive detention of Confederate sympathizers to keep the state in the Union. Marylanders fought on both sides, with the bloodiest battle of the war fought along the quiet ripples of Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln, was a pro-slavery Marylander.

Slavery was abolished in the state in 1864, but was replaced by Jim Crow segregation, although that was applied unevenly because of the state’s economic diversity. Maryland also had its raging white mobs and lynchings. In the 1920s the KKK could assemble crowds in the thousands but also faced strong opposition. Baltimore citizens rioted when a Klanswoman tried to speak at a Baptist church in the city, and arsonists tried to burn down the offices of the Thomas Dixon Branch of the Klan.

Women Break Up Klan Rally: 1966

Two women who broke up Klan rally leaving the Hyattsville, MD police station in 1967. Photo by Randolph Routt. Washington Star Collection© Washington Post.

The civil rights movement finally put an end to formal segregation, sometimes against violent resistance, as in the long and difficult struggle in Cambridge, Maryland. Sometimes however, resistance to segregation took a more comical turn. In 1966 the Klan was holding a small rally in Mt Rainier Maryland when two women grabbed the Klan bullhorn and started singing “We Shall Overcome”. The stunned Klansmen called the cops claiming that the women had slapped them and torn their robes.The Klan was always more “courageous” away from the light of day. There’s a reason why they were called night riders.

George Wallace, the Alabama segregationist who stood in the schoolhouse door, always did well in Maryland presidential primaries between 1964-1972, but was also met by militant anti-racist demonstrations. In 1972, there was an assassination attempt against Wallace while he was speaking at a Laurel, Maryland shopping center.

Maryland was far from being another Mississippi, but believe me, Dixie-style racism was still very much alive in the state in 1971.

You don’t just walk into a confrontation with the KKK

The great thing about fear is that it focuses your attention. We had made careful preparations for our protest against the Klan picnic. I knew YAWF mostly as the group with the most colorful taffeta banners at antiwar protests as well as by their combative style if right-wingers or police physically attacked them. They fought back.

I soon learned that they were also meticulous planners. The parent group of Youth Against War and Fascism was the NYC based Workers World Party (WWP). The descendent of many splits in the Marxist left, the WWP had some experienced people among its leaders.

Entrance to Town of Rising Sun, MD: 2012

Entrance to the town of Rising Sun, Maryland shown in 2012

Our collective had a meeting with some of the NYC leadership to plan for the picnic confrontation. They came with maps of the Rising Sun area and had already worked out escape routes if things got too ugly. The Klan picnic was not in the town of Rising Sun, but at a nearby farm on an isolated two-lane rural road.

The idea was that we would park our vehicles and picket alongside the road next to the farm. The KKK also promised a cross burning that evening, but we had no intention of being around for that. At night on a lonely country road with revved up racists in sheets? No thank you.

The issue of firearms came up. Eventually it was decided that one car would have weapons in the trunk and people would be assigned to armed self-defense if it came to that. To my great relief, I was not chosen to be one of those people. I could hit a paper target with the .38 caliber revolver that I owned, but I had never pointed a gun at another human being. I was unsure how I would I react in the fear and confusion of an actual shootout.

Our collective organized some friends and allies who agreed to come. We estimated a turnout of maybe 50.  That was when the local authorities pulled a fast one on us. Somebody scouting out the location a couple of days before noticed that there were now “No Parking” signs all up and down the road near the site of the picnic. Since the Klan could park on the farm property, the signs were clearly aimed at us. You may have heard the chant, “Cops and Klan work hand in hand!” This was a concrete example of that.

No problem. We would just assign one person per vehicle to drive up and down the road and just trade off drivers periodically. I wish we had thought to attach signs to the side of the vehicles, though. That would have been more dramatic.

Demonstration Day Arrives

The morning of the demonstration I placed an old axe handle in the back of the Ford van I owned. It was intended for self-defense. Segregationist Lester Maddox had used an axe handle to stop black civil rights demonstrators from entering his Georgia chicken restaurant in 1964. Maddox and his axe handle became a symbol of die-hard Jim Crow. The irony of taking an axe handle to an anti-Klan protest appealed to me.

We assembled at a house shared by three of our Mother Bloor members to caravan to Rising Sun, about an hour’s drive away. One of our members tearfully announced that she had lost her nerve and was going to stay back. I tried to console her because she agreed to sit by the phone until people returned safely. In the days before cell phones and Skype, that was an important job.

Part of Former Boyle Farm in Rising Sun, MD

Part of former farm in 2012 where a 1971 picket of a Klan rally was held near Rising Sun, MD.

When we arrived at our destination near Rising Sun, we met up with the people from Delaware and NYC, and began picketing next to the farm where the KKK picnic was scheduled. We were soon joined by state police and some plainclothes cops that I assumed were FBI. They kept their distance.

We numbered between 50-60 as we chanted, marched, and switched off with the drivers. We really couldn’t see the picnic, but periodically Klan members would approach us on their side of the fence and exchange jibes.

My personal fear had largely evaporated in the warm Maryland sun and the anti-Klan energy we were generating. Nothing really threatening had happened yet and we had no intention of invading the picnic. The presence of the cops nearby was another factor in keeping Klan members from acts of blatant violence.

Then a large blond Klansman sauntered slowly over with a broad grin on his face. Resting his elbows on his side of the fence, still with that silly smile, he looked us over. He really did resemble the Nazi Aryan ideal. I kept my eye on him as we marched around when suddenly he spat directly in the face of a short skinny YAWF member. Without hesitation, the YAWF member spat back directly back into the Klansman’s face. Adrenaline surged through me as I stood my ground and thought, “Oh shit, this is it!” I was expecting the worst.

The Klansman stepped back looking shocked and bewildered. The dumb bastard had no idea what to do. Turning slowly, he walked away accompanied by some rude verbal encouragement from us. A small victory for our side. Shortly afterward the owner of the farm approached the fence and assured us that he didn’t want any trouble and hoped we didn’t either. I don’t recall what we told him, but we were planning to leave soon anyway.

Laurel MD Arms Against Klan: 1967

Klan graffiti in Laurel, MD circa 1967. Photo: Joseph Silverman. DC Public Library Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

We stayed a while longer and then packed up and left. I felt we had made our point. That night Klan honcho Tony LaRicci charged in on a horse to lead a good old fashioned cross burning. It was ironic that the Maryland Klan had a leader with an Italian name. The KKK was once fiercely anti-Italian when Italians were not yet considered white people. Go figure.

Days later Wilmington YAWF contacted us and said the demonstration had helped ease the grip of Klan fear as they had hoped. They considered the protest a success.

Damn, that news felt good.


Author’s Notes:

Special thanks to Craig Simpson and Ron Jacobs for research help. Resistance to the Klan in Maryland” by Craig Simpson, “Cecil County Klan Rally draws nearly 400” — the Baltimore Sun June 21, 1971, “No incidents reported at Klan rally”— the Washington Post June 21, 1971, Ku Klux Klan: An Encyclopedia by Michael Newton & Judy Ann Newton.


Robert “Bob” Simpson is a former University of Maryland and Washington, DC area social justice activist who moved to Chicago, Illinois in the mid-1970s. He is one half of the Carol Simpson labor cartoon team. Bob remains active in greater Chicago and is a regular contributor to the Daily Kos, Counter Punch and has his own blog The Bobbosphere.


See more related photos from the Washington Area Spark Flickr set: Resistance to the Klan in Maryland


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