Selling the Klan – Should People Collect Ku Klux Klan Memorabilia?

In April, 2014, my wife and I took our children to a wonderful antique advertising show at a fancy resort in the upscale suburban community of St. Charles, Illinois. My daughter loved the beautiful old jukeboxes. My son (and my good friend, Tom)Antique Pinball Machine could not get enough of the fantastic restored pinball machines. And while neither Tom nor I were sure we liked seeing things we grew up with being considered antiques, we had a great time. If had and extra $8,000 to spare, I know my son would have loved for me to have bought the ultra-cool “Rocky And Bullwinkle” pinball machine! The show was large and really fun. Until Tom took me aside and whispered in my ear, “I didn’t want the kids to see this, but you won’t believe what I found.”

 

He showed me this:

Ku Klux Klan Memorabilia

Klan Robe For Sale

 

An authentic Ku Klux Klan robe for sale. I stared at it in stunned disbelief. Who would want to own such a grotesque piece of terrorism? Would people think it appropriate to bid on the robes Osama bin Laden was wearing? Would you be excited to bid on a brick from the ovens at Auschwitz? Would you want to own a piece of clothing worn by a racist murderer? Why? Tom’s wife, Mary, who has a great eye for detail, pointed out to me what appeared to be faded blood stains on the sleeve. They were right above the neat little sign

Ku Klux Klan Memorabilia

Close-up Showing Price And Possible Blood Stains

that told you that this item could be yours for just $900.

Should People Collect Ku Klux Klan Memorabilia?

On the one hand, it is a free country and if collecting terrorism items is your thing, I suppose you have the right. I don’t understand why Ku Klux Klan memorabilia would appeal to anyone. I would have no problem with a museum displaying Ku Klux Klan memorabilia if they included explanatory signage about how the war on terrorism in America focused on the Klan. But to own it for pleasure or sell it for profit? Turns my stomach.

Consider: if the stains on the sleeve were blood, then the last thing some innocent person saw before he was murdered was this robe. And it can be yours for only $900.

If a relative of yours was murdered for any reason, let alone the color of their skin, would you hope some entrepreneur, like the seller at the St. Charles show, could at least make a profit off it? If you lost someone on 9-11, or in one of the mass shootings that have plagued our country from Newtown to Aurora to Virginia Tech, would you feel good about folks making money off your loss?

I did not talk to the seller. I did not ask him if he felt good about buying Ku Klux Klan memorabilia and then selling it for a profit. I didn’t ask him if collected other terrorist memorabilia. I honestly did not want to look him in the eye. I just walked away and, before I rejoined my children, I said a prayer for everyone murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

 

4 thoughts on “Selling the Klan – Should People Collect Ku Klux Klan Memorabilia?

  1. Hi,
    In the late 1960s, I was on a business trip that included Lancaster, PA. I turned on the TV one evening and started flipping through the channels. (Had to do it manually, if I recall. No remote.) On their public broadcasting channel was a local KKK meeting! The guest speaker was the head of the Klan from Indiana. They used a single camera and everyone (without their hoods) knew they were being televised. They didn’t preach violent hatred, but they focus more on the importance of “white America.” Being somewhat naive at the time, I never realized the Klan had chapters in the North. I was dumbfounded by the whole thing, but watched every minute of it. Hope to see you soon again, Best, BL

    • Bob,

      That is an amazing story. The Klan rarely, to my knowledge, was quite that public. They must have felt very safe and very protected. In the South they were protected by local police and government authorities, who were often members themselves.

      Amazing.

      Barry

  2. Look at it this way. Museums display less than 10% of their items. How is that teaching anybody? So that makes it wrong for a collector who is preserving it as much, and actually caring about the historical piece in displaying it? There is no difference in collecting this stuff than any other stuff, as long as the history is understood and not used in a misrepresented way.

    • Kyle,

      The piece was not being displayed by a collector it was being sold for profit. The Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist organization, the American equivalent of Al Qaeda. They were racist murderers who boastfully used terror including murder, rape, kidnapping, dismemberment, and arson to spread terror in the United States. In the context of a museum display, the exhibition of the Ku Klux Klan robe with an explanatory note about the role of the largest terrorist organization in the history of America would be appropriate. However, in this case, a collector was attempting to use the remnants of terrorist activity to make a profit.

      An equivalent might be if somehow the clothes of the terrorists who crashed planes on 911 survived, were found by a local citizen, then decided to make profit off of their sale, ignoring blood stains on the sleeve, most likely from the victim of a murder. In fact, the blood stains made it more valuable. The death of a human being by a terrorist could help this particular collector make a profit.

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