What A 1924 KKK Gathering in Tacoma Tells us about White Nationalism in the U.S. TodayHistorians in the News
tags: archives, KKK, local history, White Supremacy, Pacific Northwest
Michael Lafreniere was researching a building — not the history of white supremacy in Tacoma.
So what he stumbled across while digging through the digital archives at the Tacoma Public Library shocked him, the communications director for Historic Tacoma acknowledged this week.
There, before Lafreniere’s eyes, stood more than 100 members of the Ku Klux Klan, gathered for a funeral in a vacant lot along what’s now known as South Tacoma Way. The Klansman had arrived in Tacoma in full regalia from throughout the region and state.
In the photograph — which was published in The News Tribune in 1924 — the mass of anonymous white hoods strike an intentionally ominous pose, while a “small fiery cross,” which library archives indicate was used during the ceremony, adds a terrifying touch.
Lafreniere, who is also currently the managing director of the Tacoma Historical Society, explained this week that he came across the photo while researching a far less troubling subject: the history of the Piper Funeral Home, where the photograph was taken.
He never expected to unearth a glimpse into the Klan’s history in Washington state, and more particularly Tacoma, Lafreniere said.
“I think many of us — either through TV or movies or so on — we think of the Klan as something that’s part of the history of the South, and limited to the South,” Lafreniere said. “So it’s shocking to find that it’s right here, actually outside your front door.”
For Lafreniere, the stark discovery occurred almost exactly two years ago. In August 2018, as communications director for Historic Tacoma, he posted the photo and some additional context to the nonprofit’s Facebook page.
Today, the post — which has attracted hundreds of comments and shares — continues to resonate.
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