Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

November 17, 1951

Guest post by Karissa Lim, undergraduate student at University of Richmond.

On November 17, 1951, the Norfolk Journal and Guide published “South Carolina Sheriff Calls On Klansmen To Disband: Fight On Hooded Order Continues, Officer Vows KKK In Horry County Will Not Survive.” This article is about Sheriff C. E. Sasser’s fight against the Ku Klux Klan in Horry County, South Carolina. Sasser appeared on the radio and called for the KKK to disband; according to Sasser, the Klan brought “unfavorable publicity” to the county. During the radio appearance, he recounted a recent incident with the organization and what he, his police force, and the government were doing to stop the KKK.

In the most recent confrontation, Sasser’s deputies arrested fourteen out of twenty-five Klansmen who had gone to Cane Branch Baptist Church during revival services. The arrested Klansmen were charged for wearing their Klansman masks; the state had an anti-mask law, which was passed as a countermeasure to KKK activities. According to the South Carolina Code of Laws, the anti-mask law states that no one over the age of sixteen who is wearing a mask or other device that conceals their identity is permitted to do so in public spaces, demand entry into someone’s house, or participate in a meeting or demonstration on private property.156 The Klansmen claimed that they had been invited to the church and that they had not violated the law, since they wore the masks on public property. The Klan sent out warrants against Sasser’s deputies for disrupting their demonstration. Sasser claimed that this had been “a counter move by the KKK to weaken the state’s cases.” However, he remained determined in his desire to stop the KKK: “With God’s help and yours, the Ku Klux Klan won’t survive.”

Since this is a story from South Carolina, it is interesting to see that a white man with authority in his county was trying to stop the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization. In addition, it seems that he had support from his community: his deputies arrested the Klansmen who demonstrated at the church, and a friend encouraged him to continue fighting. The state also supported the disbanding of the KKK: they passed the anti-mask law, which was clearly aimed at the Klan. This runs contrary to American collective memory and the stereotype of a singularly racist, white supremacist South that held the same beliefs as the Klan.

In present-day America, the protection of police and of whiteness is valued over the protection of public lives, regardless of race. This is valuing one person or one group of people over millions of minorities. According to scholar Patricia Williams, the job of the police is to protect the public—regardless of race, location, dress, etc.—and not their own ground.157 The Horry County police in 1951 understood this well by taking action against the KKK to protect their citizens. Conversely, the protection of modern-day police is valued over the protection of minorities through “stand your ground” laws.

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