The KKK assembled in Portland in 1923. Credit: Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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I want to thank former Rep. Scott Cuddy for his Sept. 13 column taking former Republican Rep. Larry Lockman to task for a Maine Wire column that downplayed the dangers of neo-Nazis in Maine while accusing Democrats of anti-white racism.

In his column, Lockman accused Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, Maine’s first African American House speaker, of “stoking racial animosity” for pointing out that the Ku Ku Klux was a prominent presence in Maine in the 1920s and that white supremacy continues to be a problem. Lockman made the misleading claim that the “KKK of 1920s Maine was almost exclusively dedicated to harassing white French Catholics.” Cuddy wrote that the Maine KKK “focused on Catholics and immigrants.”

Both of these statements leave out the fact that the Maine KKK also directed its hatred at African Americans. As the Lewiston Daily Sun reported in December 1925, Klan leader DeForest Perkins told an audience at the Bangor Mayflower Club that the Klan was backing five bills to “insure Protestant white supremacy.” First on the agenda was legislation to ban marriages between whites and African Americans. Republican Rep. John M. Sturgis of Auburn sponsored the antimiscegenation bill, but fortunately the Maine Legislature rejected the measure.

The Klan terrorized Black Mainers, including staging a rally on the lawn of a Black woman named Smithie V. Ray in Mechanic Falls in 1925, according to “The History of Maine Methodism” by Patricia A. Jewett. Maine Klan leader F. Eugene Farnsworth also was known to liberally drop the n-word in his sermons.

The Ku Klux Klan was incredibly influential in Maine Republican politics in the 1920s, and it was certainly anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant. But we shouldn’t let Lockman get away with dismissing the fact that it was also virulently racist.

Andy O’Brien