January 17th is the anniversary of one of my favorite bits of Southern history: the confrontation between Lumbee Indians and the KKK. I studied Indian law and some Native history in college, and it is to my shame that I never came across this account until just several years ago.
Why was this never a big story? Maybe because for conservatives, minorities expressing their 2nd Amendment Rights is a disturbing scenario; and maybe for liberals, the Indians don't perform the politically correct ritual of declaring debilitating "pain" or "trauma" caused by hate speech.
Give me a good courageous uprising any day. I love this story so much, I transcribed it from a copy of an article printed in the Raleigh Times just before the confrontation. Then I've included a couple other sources that hopefully complete the story.
Klan Rally Doubtful; Maxton Indians Arming
Raleigh Times Jan. 17, 1958
By Erv Parkins
Times Staff Writer
MAXTON- It was questionable whether Ku Klux Klansmen would hold their scheduled rally and cross burning aimed at halting racial mixing of white and redskins.
Bruce Roberts, editor of the Scottish Chief, weekly newspaper at Maxton, said Indians had indicated they would attend the rally en masse to "scalp the Klan" and pull some of the sheets off.
Maxton ministers have called on citizens to boycott the rally. Sheriff M.G. McCloud and Maxton Police Chief Bob Fisher indicated they had not had any trouble and said they did not know yet whether to expect any.
"You don't know when to expect trouble until it hits you," the sheriff said.
SBI Chief Walter Anderson said today he would not send his men to help police the rally unless law officials requested it.
The sheriff and Maxton police chief indicated they saw no need for such action. They said there had been no trouble.
Klansmen who burned two crosses elsewhere in Robeson County earlier this week announced they would meet outside Maxton tomorrow night for another cross burning as a "warning" to the Indians.
Hardware stores reported sales of guns and ammunition to the normally peaceful Croatans skyrocketed after the KKK announcement, and a spokesman for the Indians said they would "wipe out" the white-robed klansmen if they go ahead with the rally.
Some officials said feeling among the Indians, who make up about one-third of Robeson County's population, was so intense that the Klan demonstrated probably would be cancelled.
But a Klan leader, the Rev. James Cole of Marion S.C., told the United Press Thursday night he saw "no reason" why the rally should not be held as scheduled.
Police Chief Bob Fisher said his force would make every effort to prevent violence. "We have always had good race relations here and we don't intend to let any outside group stir up trouble with our Indians," he said.
According to the Lumbee tribe website... On a bitter cold January 18th evening in 1958, about 350 Lumbee tribal members gathered at Hayes Pond in Maxton to stop a Ku Klux Klan rally that had been called by John “Catfish” Cole. Only 50 of the predicted 5,000 Klansman showed for the rally whom Cole said would attend to put the Lumbee back in their place.
The Klan set up a generator to power a sound system and a single light bulb. When Cole stood to speak, it wasn’t long before tribal members, many armed, swarmed in, shooting out the light. With bullets flying, the Klansman ran, leaving vehicles, women and children behind.
Catfish Cole and James Martin were later indicted and arrested on charges. Cole was charged and convicted of inciting a riot and Martin was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and drunkenness. (from: www.lumbeetribe.com)
From the Fay Observer:
A few minutes before the rally was to begin, Sanford Locklear, who came up from Pembroke, began arguing with Cole. Words became shoves as tempers rose. Then the first shot was fired — a shotgun blast that shattered the only light in the field. That was enough for most of the Klansmen.
As dozens of Indians shot into the air, peppering the field with birdshot, dozens of Klansmen scattered into the woods. Cole was among them, leaving his wife, Carolyn, behind. In a panic, she drove their car into a ditch, where several Indians helped push her out. The state patrol, who had been waiting about a mile away, moved in when gunfire broke out. Sheriff McLeod, who later said he didn't want to be accused of defending the Klan by showing up early, helped find lost Klansmen in the bushes and directed them out of Robeson County.
Their foe routed, the victors began collecting spoils. Simeon Oxendine and Charlie Warriax snagged the large KKK banner from the flatbed truck. Others playfully donned some of the Klan robes left behind and fired their shotguns into the air. Oxendine and Warriax took their captured banner back to the VFW convention in Charlotte, where they posed for photographers from The Charlotte Observer. (from the Fay Observer website)
Christopher Arris Oakley, a historian at East Carolina University who specializes in local Native American History also covered this event in his article "When Carolina Indians Went on the Warpath": The Media, the Klan, and the Lumbees of North Carolina" (Southern Cultures - Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2008, pp. 55-84).