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KKK History Explored at Local Library 

The Vermillion Library held an event on Nov. 1 called the “‘…Strengthening Our Democracy by Remembering Our History’: Shining a light on the KU Klux Klan in South Dakota.” 

The adult service supervisor at the Vermillion Public Library, Kendra Brewer, said the whole point of this presentation was to inform people about the history of South Dakota. 

“We got lots of questions just from the title of the presentation, which was on purpose, as it is a bit of a jarring, attention grabbing title,” Brewer said. “I tried to emphasize that this program was about South Dakota history, and that it was an author presentation about the research they had done about this topic.” 

This presentation was by Arley Fadness about the Ku Klux Klan and how they have impacted South Dakota throughout many different ways. 

On the South Dakota Humanities Council website, they further explain Fadness’ presentation that was held at the library.

“Fadness exposes the Invisible Empire of the KKK in the Rushmore state. The murder of a Catholic priest in Lead, the recruitment of KKK members at the Homestake Gold Mine and the role of Gutzon Borglum as a white supremacist in the Ku Klux Klan are but a few eye-openers in this power point presentation. In contrast to the tenets and practices of the Ku Klux Klan, we celebrate our Democracy – equality, diversity, freedom and voting,” the South Dakota Humanities Council website said. 

During the event, Fadness also talked about the influence of the Ku Klux Klan during the time frame of 1892 to 1933, along with his research in the identifying towns, churches, leaders and communities, which unwittingly sang the songs of white supremacy, antisemitism, anti-Catholics and nativism.

Following the event, Fadness will be releasing a book in March about the same information also called “Strengthening Our Democracy by Remembering Our History”

Towards the end of Fadness’ presentation, he talked about how remembering history can also strengthen democracy today. 

“Lastly, we remember our history in order to strengthen our treasured democracy,” Fadness said. “Democracy and its ideals cannot be taken for granted. Liberty, equality, self-governance, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, the press and the right to vote. These are our treasures beyond the golden door.” 

After Fadness’ presentation, he left room for questions for the audience in attendance and also on zoom. 

“A lot of questions about this program were more surprised that there had ever been a presence of the KKK in South Dakota, and we had several people share their own experiences of remembering when the KKK was a more prominent group in South Dakota,” Brewer said. 
If interested in Fadness’ presentation visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo9FHDk4vFU and for any other information about Fadness and his other writings, visit https://sdhumanities.org/arley-fadness/.