Local News

Barefoot Case Shows KKK Still Alive In Areas Of N.C.

Posted July 24, 2002

— Charles Barefoot, an self-proclaimed member of the Ku Klux Klan, appeared in

federal court

Wednesday after authorities said he planned to blow up several places in Johnston County. His case highlights something many people may not like to hear. Factions associated with the Ku Klux Klan are alive and well in North Carolina. WRAL takes a look back at the history of the Klan in North Carolina and its status today.

The roots of the Ku Klux Klan run deep in the south. Formed in Tennessee after the Civil War, the roots spread throughout the southeast.

"Its purpose was to prevent blacks from voting or running for office and to throw the Republican Party out of power," said Harry Watson, a UNC History professor who runs the Center for the Study of the American South.

Watson said the Klan has a long and violent history in North Carolina. In 1979, Klan members shot and killed five people who were participating in an anti-Klan rally in Greenboro.

"It's kind of a testimony to their own weakness. They're notable to persuade most of us at the ballot box, so they strike out this way," Watson said.

Watson said the name "Ku Klux Klan" does not represent one group, but many separate factions of people who share similar ideas.

"The name, Ku Klux Klan, belongs to anyone who wants to claim it," he said.

Last week, Charles Barefoot, who claimed to be a member of the KKK, was arrested after investigators found dozens of weapons and bomb-making materials in his Johnston County home. Authorities also found a KKK robe and hood. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates there are 23 hate groups in North Carolina, and five of them call themselves the Ku Klux Klan.

"Whenever anyone calls themselves the Klan, it's a signal to me that they want to evoke violent connotations. They are trying to make a threat, a violent threat by proxy," Watson said.

"The Ku Klux Klan has been totally underestimated throughout the history of America," said Curtis Gatewood, president of the NAACP in Durham.

Gatewood says the NAACP monitors Klan activity in the state and across the country.

"We should have free speech, but we shouldn't have the freedom to have a history of murdering people and continuing to be organized and continuing to be armed," he said.

Gatewood likens the KKK's actions to terrorism and said it should be targeted by law enforcement.

"When we're talking about dealing with terrorism, we need to look at all groups that have been terrorists in America as well as abroad and say we are not going to tolerate terrorists especially in America," he said.

"I think it's one of those things you have to be vigilant about without being paranoid about," Watson said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates there are about 100 members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina. Charles Barefoot reportedly started his own splinter group of the Klan after he had a falling out with the leader of an Indiana-based chapter.

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