Ku Klux Klan membership records made public in Denver

Colorado News

AUG 10 1980 – Organizer Quits Klan; Fred Wilkins, the state organizer of the Ku Klux Klan, announces his resignation as head of that organization Sunday to join the National Association for the Advancement of White People, a group recently formed by the head of the national Ku Klux Klan. Wilkins said the Klan has suffered from a negative image and that the new group should be seen as a pro-white organization instead of an anti-black one. (Photo by John Sunderland/The Denver Post)

DENVER (AP) — History Colorado has debuted an online archive this week of 1,300 pages of original Ku Klux Klan membership records from 1924 through 1926, previously on public display at the History Colorado Center in downtown Denver.

History Colorado digitized the hate group’s ledgers, which include about 30,000 entries, to highlight the widespread racism built into the city’s political and cultural history, The Denver Post reported. Researchers know some of the entries are repeats of the same people, so the total number of members is unknown, History Colorado spokesperson John Eding said.

The organization received a $5,000 grant from the Colorado Historical Records Advisory Board to digitize the records, History Colorado Chief Operating Officer Dawn DiPrince said.

The funds went to labor costs, spokesperson John Eding said in a statement.

“Some people honestly are surprised by this history, and I think there’s interest in just coming to terms with these truths,” DiPrince said. “We always like to say there’s a lot to love about Colorado history. But that tends to overshadow some of the darker chapters.”

The Ku Klux Klan is a hate group that was organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, often using violence against Black people, Jews and members of the LGBTQ community.

“Reminding people that this is also part of our history is essential to moving forward,” DiPrince said. “You have to be honest about hard truths, as well as the things we love and celebrate.”

The digitized ledgers include specific locations, people and institutions, including History Colorado, the State Capitol, the city fire department and the state hospital.

“We worked with community advisors to make sure with we weren’t just dropping this into the world,” DiPrince said. “That could be traumatizing, or there could be ways in which is seems like it’s celebrating white supremacy. We were really intentional about about providing a larger context.”

As a result, DiPrince said the archive was posted online with links to stories of people who resisted the KKK at the time, such as Dr. Joseph Westbrook. Westbrook infiltrated the KKK long before Detective Ron Ron Stallworth went undercover to bust them in Colorado Springs in the 1970s. That story that was made into Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning 2018 film “BlacKkKlansman” based on Stallworth’s memoir “Black Klansman.”

The ledgers are now the single largest archival item digitally available from History Colorado.

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