Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our new listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show.
April 24, 2010 show
KKK stranglehold in the 1920s
Hoosier History Live! is dedicated to covering all aspects of Indiana's past, including those we wish had not happened. Certainly the political and cultural dominance of the notorious Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s falls into the category of shameful. To explore what happened and why, Nelson will be joined in studio by Allen Safianow of Kokomo, a professor emeritus at IU-Kokomo who has done extensive research on the KKK in Indiana.
The central figure during the 1920s heyday of the hate group was the flamboyant D.C. Stephenson (1891-1966), who rose to become Grand Dragon. Stephenson intimidated Indiana politicians, recruited large numbers of Hoosier members and even boasted, "I am the law in Indiana."
Stephenson's downfall (and the decline of the KKK's dominance in the state) came when he was arrested in the death of an Indianapolis woman whom he had brutally raped. During a sensational trial in 1925, Stephenson was found guilt of second-degree murder. The trial was in Noblesville, which drew national attention again decades later when a local building contractor discovered Klan records and memorabilia dating back to the 1920s.
Professor Safianow has analyzed the impact of those records, which contained membership rolls of Hamilton County citizens, hoods and sashes. Professor Safianow also has analyzed the KKK's impact during the 1920s in other parts of the state, including Tipton and Kokomo, said to be the site in 1923 of the largest conclave (called a "Konclave") ever held in the United States.
"At its height in Indiana in the 1920s, one quarter to one third of native-born, white males in Indiana were Klan members," Professor Safianow noted in an article in the Indiana Magazine of History about the discovery of the Hamilton County membership records and memorabilia. He also notes that the unraveling of – and infighting among – the Klan in Indiana had begun even before Stephenson's trial. In the aftermath, confidential files were released that described corruption and Klan ties to the administration of Gov. Ed Jackson.
In Indiana, the resurgence of the KKK (which had flourished after the Civil War in the Deep South) is often traced to the arrival in Evansville in 1920 of a Klan recruiter named Joseph Huffington. Agents then began recruiting members in southern Indiana. Stephenson, a Texas native who spent much of his youth in Oklahoma, also drifted to Evansville in the early 1920s, then moved to Indianapolis.
During a 12-month period beginning in July 1922, more than 100,000 Hoosier men joined the Klan, according to some experts. Targets of the KKK during the 1920s in Indiana included immigrants, Catholics, Jews and African-Americans.
Professor Safianow, a New Jersey native educated at Rutgers and Cornell, moved to Indiana in the early 1970s to join the faculty at IU-Kokomo. He says he began his research on the KKK because of Kokomo's connection to the massive rally in 1923. Nelson plans to ask Professor Safianow about the challenges that confront historians who attempt to get a handle on the Klan of the 1920s.
History Mystery question
In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was so brazen it openly used a convention center-revival house in downtown Indianapolis for several rallies. The convention center, known as a "tabernacle," was the setting for a vast array of public events, most having nothing to do with the Klan; they included dance marathons, religious revivals and teachers' conventions. Designed in a Spanish style with a whitewashed facade, the tabernacle was built in 1921 at the corner of Ohio and New Jersey streets. It had a seating capacity of 10,000, not counting a loft for 1,500 choir members. (Choral performances frequently were broadcast across the country on network radio programs.)
Question: Name the sprawling tabernacle that was the setting for hundreds of large gatherings in downtown Indianapolis from the 1920s until its demolition in the late 1960s.
The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is a DVD of Movers and Stakers, a documentary about the history of the National Road in Indiana, courtesy of producer/director Nancy Carlson of Ball State University.
World-celebrated artist Nancy Noël is inviting all to experience her Spring Open House, coming up on Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2, at The Sanctuary, a restored Victorian church in downtown Zionsville. During this annual celebration, guests travel from all over the country to buy art and have the chance to actually meet Nancy in person!
Live music and tasty treats provided by the resident, in-house French chef ensure an enjoyable Roadtrip to Zionsville. And the open house is free. Hear more on Saturday from the Roadtripper himself, Chris Gahl of the ICVA.
What's new with Hoosier History Live!
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Who are these people making Hoosier History Live!, anyway? Are they creating their own style of exploring history? Where did the thick, dusty history textbook go? Look for upcoming opportunities to sponsor a series of online learning modules, rich with the content from all our more than 100 past shows. Think of it as a glorified audio book of all of Nelson Price's great interviews, complete with show descriptions and informative web links for more learning. Stay tuned, or visit "Support the show" at our website.
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
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Acknowledgments to Scott Keller Fine Art and Antiques Appraisals, Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.
May 1, 2010 show
From marble quarries of Italy to Indiana limestone
Next up in our popular series about ethnic immigration and heritage, we will explore the legacy of Italian stonecutters who came to southern Indiana to carve our famous limestone. Nelson will be joined in studio by a descendant of stone carvers from Carrara, Italy, Indianapolis author and speaker Carol Faenzi. Her dramatic account of her great-grandparents' journey from Italy to the Hoosier state, The Stonecutter's Aria (Aperto Books), was selected by the Indianapolis Opera Company for its "One Book, One Opera"
celebration and was selected by the Columbus Area Arts Council for its Community Read.
Carol will share details about the "first families" of Italian stone carvers to settle in Bedford, including the Arenas, who did much of the carving work on the town's main plaza.
Did you know marble cutters from Italy who settled in Indiana often went on to use their talents with limestone in the construction during the 1930s of cathedrals, monuments and private buildings across the country? (Carol's ancestor's handiwork graces Julian Chapel at Duke University, the National Archives and the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.)
Carol and Nelson also plan to explore one of the state's "gems" among our burial grounds, scenic Green Hill Cemetery in Bedford, a trove of distinctive, personalized monuments created by the stonecutters. Carol has traveled extensively to her ancestral home of Carrara, located at the epicenter of the Italian Alps and the quarries of marble, which is known in Tuscany as "white gold."
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