1924 : Burning Crosses Appear in Downtown Traverse City

August 9, 2022 all-day

On Aug. 9, 1924, burning crosses appeared in downtown Traverse City while three explosions rocked buildings and blew out storefront windows along Front Street.

As firefighters raced to extinguish the burning crosses and the police department scrambled to figure out what was going on, some observers saw a large sedan carrying four robed and hooded men carrying a lighted sign that read “K.K.K.” The car spouted red flares as it crept down Front Street.

Copies of the Klan’s newspaper, The Fiery Cross, were distributed throughout the town.

The local Ku Klux Klan spokesman in Traverse City denied the Klan’s involvement, but police felt they had enough evidence to charge the local Klan leader, B.B. Carleton, who had skipped town but was later caught in Indiana. Carleton eventually was acquitted of the charges.


Michigan Every Day

For additional reading, see

Everyday klansfolk : white protestant life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan / Craig Fox. East Lansing : Michigan State University Press, c2011. : In 1920s Middle America, the Ku Klux Klan gained popularity not by appealing to the fanatical fringes of society, but by attracting the interest of “average” citizens. During this period, the Klan recruited members through the same unexceptional channels as any other organization or club, becoming for many a respectable public presence, a vehicle for civic activism, or the source of varied social interaction. Its diverse membership included men and women of all ages, occupations, and socio-economic standings. Although surviving membership records of this clandestine organization have proved incredibly rare, Everyday Klansfolk uses newly available documents to reconstruct the life and social context of a single grassroots unit in Newaygo County, Michigan. A fascinating glimpse behind the mask of America’s most notorious secret order, this absorbing study sheds light on KKK activity and membership in Newaygo County, and in Michigan at large, during the brief and remarkable peak years of its mass popular appeal.

The MSU Library Special Collections unit (ARVF) maintains a clippings file on Ku Klux Klan activities in Michigan. Digitized Ku Klux Klan publications are also available.

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