23 thoughts on “Was your ancestor in the Ku Klux Klan?

  1. Founded in 1865, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for Black Americans. The Klan’s handbook, “The Kloran,” was published in 1915. The “Ku Klux Kreed,” is in the preface, which includes this statement: “We avow the distinction between the races of mankind as same has been decreed by the Creator, and we shall ever be true in the faithful maintenance of White Supremacy and will strenuously oppose any compromise thereof in any and all things.” I don’t know about you, folks, but when I read that “kreed,” I don’t get a warm and fuzzy about the KKK in Pensacola. Were those members of the KKK “concerned with law and order and business interests and conflict between religious groups?” Likely. Did those same men have terror robes and helmets in their closets? Yes.

  2. Dear Tom,

    Seeing your comment it reminded me to look up the article that I’d missed in the PNJ. Just read it. It’s an amazing view into Pensacola’s history–thank you. I’m sorry that, not having the context of your work on the project, I misunderstood your comment to Rick.

    For anyone else who might have missed the letter to the City Council, it’s well worth the read:

    “Who becomes the ‘keeper of history?’: Garner’s full letter to city council”


  3. Lynn,

    The local Klan was formed in 1920 a decade after the last public lynching. In addition, most of those participating in lynchings are not known by name. This makes it hard to find connections between the Klan and the lynchings, although I don’t doubt there are connections. A good bit of what I know is in the statement I submitted to the Pensacola City Council that was published in the Pensacola News Journal week before last.

    There were four individuals lynched in downtown Pensacola, one individual along what is now Scenic Highway, and two individuals in the north end of Escambia County. The last public lynching was in 1910.

  4. No more name-calling. Follow the comment rules and make your points without personal attacks.

  5. Jeff you sound like a modern day Sociacrat that wants to destroy the country and turn us into a communist state.

    Any of this agenda the same as yours?
    Communist Party ^^

    As far as staying on topic about the history of Pensacola and secret societies, a quick search also revealed info about the Knights of Columbus and the KKK in the area. Historically people assemble themselves into groups and protect their interests.

    Ironically the Mayor of Chicago took down the statue of Columbus yesterday and in the past the Democratic party KKK was against Columbus Day because they didn’t like the Catholics.
    History tell us most of the natives on the Gulf Coast died of pathogens they had no immunity for.
    But the pretend offended don’t even know what they are offended about.

    History repeats itself and civilizations run in cycles.

    Who would have thought people actually usher in communism in the last bastion of freedom in the world without a fight, Jeff? They actually work for it like useful idiots.

    Your argument to go ad hominem and put things in a box and label to dispute is typical of the low level intellect of today.

    Cancel culture going on now is similar to the purge in Mao’s time. The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976. Launched by Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC)


  6. Jeff: very good point. Joan stated “KKK were WASPs. Maybe some of the people hung were criminals” Dear Joan the Denier Trumpet: Those so called people were black citizens who were LYNCHED BY THE KKK and other good church going WASPs.

  7. Joan, spare us the rose-colored glasses of grannie’s backyard, grits, blah, blah, blah. You’re a trumper who believes the Democrats are the enemy of your fever-dream of the genteel confederacy, and you will not be persuaded otherwise. The confederacy was a collection of traitors who took up arms against their country to maintain slavery. And I say this as a 7th generation Floridian with an ancestor in Camp Chase cemetery and several more in unmarked graves across the south. Yes, my ancestors were traitors to the USA and their history is shameful to me.

    You want to talk about division? trump has been working that vein his entire life, and I have not and will not buy into that.

  8. One more thought @Alison, while trying to troll me using my heartfelt quote of how it felt to come home to the south to Grandmother’s house and your reference to Hitler in the same comment… I’ll say this as plainly and politely as I can muster.

    Make no mistake. The Democrats are kneeling during the National Anthem and on the Flag of the USA in plain site. They aren’t calling for the removal of monuments because it’s the right thing to do. They aren’t angry because “some founding fathers owned slaves”

    They are dividing the country by any means necessary and using racial division and strife as merely an arsenal in their weapons.

    Many are being played in this conquest to take over the country and change the constitution.

    I’m not buying into it.

  9. One more without being defensive. No as far as I know personally I don’t know of anyone in the KKK. I do think an enlightened one can attempt to learn about history and try to rise above and try to look objectively at history, howeber that is a rare trait. At that time there was prohibition. The PNJ carried this narrative even further today in their article. I don’t have the quote but the KKK, it seems, in Pcola was concerned with law and order and business interests and conflict between religious groups. KKK members were most likely protestant and may have problems with people who drank alcohol, and disliked the red light district and people who thought it was acceptable to go to the priest on Sunday and make it all just magically disappear. Life can be an interesting tapestry. Unfortunately it seems some just like to narrow things into a little box and judge. As far as extra judicial law enforcement in the day .. There are probably lots of stories that can be dug up on all sides. Personally I was raised Air Force so yes all this racial strife was nonexistent for me. I am curious, maybe that is one reason I delve into muddy waters at times. It looks like the KKK were WASPs. Maybe some of the people hung were criminals. Gasp. There is no doubt there was great social upheaval in the south between the races however Pensacola was spared some of. The port and timber industry kept many employed. So yes look forward to more info coming forward..Knowledge is power.

    I know some one raised in Pcola that I wish would tell his interesting stories. The one where he jumped and rode the train to New Orleans is a good one. Skipped school to attend Mardi Gras and instead of being punished the teacher asked him to relay his adventures to the class.. School was right there by that so called hateful monument.

    A generation loved Lynyd Skynrd Free Bird… And they won’t easily change.
    Dixie.. Love it.
    Kiss my grits.

  10. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for your response, and no–I did not know that. I’m trying as best as I can to take in a lot of information on a wide variety of things happening right now, and we’ve only been here 6 years, so I don’t have knowledge of some aspects that might be immediately apparent to other people on who is connected with what institutions etc. And I certainly might have missed a publication about it, as my primary focus during the last week was advocating for a school delay and contributing to the pressure on Malcolm Thomas to circulate public records that he wasn’t disclosing to the board. And so I went back just now, and read your comment more carefully and see the part about how you would have disclosed the documents.

    As an academic, it is so frustrating right now that with all of the disinformation campaigns, conspiracy theories, and then on top of it the business-as-usual back-dooring that needs to be combated (such as the attempt to shoe-horn in Keith Leonard as superintendent), we are in a four-alarm emergency of a very small amount of citizen advocates trying to get in front of this stuff, combat it and reveal it, public records request it, email about it, and in the process literally read hundreds of posts and breaking news pieces a day while the machine of federal, state, and local lies does everything it can to just grind our efforts into a pulp while people continue to sicken, go into chronic and serious life-long illness, and die.

    I obviously couldn’t speak for Rick or anybody else trying to combat this, but I’m exhausted, don’t have the time to read as carefully as I should, and am so alarmed at what’s happening I’m somewhat on auto-pilot trying to triage right now. It’s a good thing I don’t have a blog that a lot of people pay attention to, or I’d be making a mess of it. So while I realize, now, that your frustration was the manner of the approach, I didn’t read it as a confrontation or “outing.” I read it as “come on, people.”

    I saw this happen so many times in Boston where the old money who contributed to historical institutions would try to block information to tweak the narrative because they didn’t want any information coming out that “implicated” their family.

    And that’s the problem. There’s no “implication” if you’re doing the right thing in the present. Too many people in this community who are old money community leaders–they sit boards, they lead service communities. they own businesses, they are church elders, they lead votes at institutions and clubs–will not give voice to the need to change.

    And some openly fight it. Maybe Rick’s nudge wasn’t gentle enough, given everything else that he is pretty much the lone media shoulder on right now. But that nudge does need to happen.

    I agree with your comments wholeheartedly:

    “My point is that no one today should be blamed for the actions of their ancestors. There are many of us who chose a different path.

    Those who chose to participate in Klan activities in the past, like Wentworth, are justly open to criticism. They did what they did with their eyes open. But I don’t want us to assume that a descendant of Wentworth holds the same views just because he did.”

    Absolutely. All of that is spot-on.

    At the same time: anybody who thinks that the KKK hasn’t been very active in trying to recruit new members here in Pensacola in recent history is fooling him or herself. We know someone who intimately moved from here not too many years ago because they kept bum rushing him. Figured as a Sicilian he was a sure bet on buy-in.

    Allison Vachon, if the people handling this exposition had any idea of your experience, talents, and wisdom, they’d hire you on to help. Ain’t ever gonna happen. You might have lived here a long time, but you’re from Montana, for God’s sake.

    Who’s from Montana??

  11. It meant exactly what was said about the confederate monuments. Don’t break your neck with the stretch. Guilt trips don’t work on the innocent. Reread it. Be shocked again if necessary.

  12. There was that invoice from the Office of the Grand Dragon (KLAN) for Mr. T.T. Wentworth, Jr, an order for “1 Terror’s robe and helmet Exalted Cyclops (SATIN).” For me, that’s the same as ordering up your first swastika armband in Germany in 1933. Someone wrote here recently that the Pensacola Confederate memorial “was evocative of a congenial southern past imprinted, such as, Grandmother, and homemade ice cream, grits, and a good ole southern drawl ….” Doesn’t mean that writer gives the Ku Klux Klan a tacit nod. The KKK came out of the Civil War. This is going to be a hard conversation. The time is now and we need all the information we can get.

  13. “The Naples of America”, “Pensacola during the Civil War and Reconstruction” is a great piece.
    by JM Brackett 2005 It is digitally filed with the Florida State University Libraries
    The conflict was resolved and inroads were made in later movements.

    Dunning or Duboise?

  14. Mr. Garner: 6 known Lynching’s of black Americans in downtown Pensacola. Does your research reflects names and comments from KKK members participating in said Lynching’s?

  15. Melissa,

    I’m not going to spend a lot more time on this. I just want to ask, do you recognize that I’m the person who revealed T. T. Wentworth’s role as Exalted Cyclops of the local Klan? Everything that you currently know about this issue you know because I brought the issue to light. I really can’t see how what I’ve done can be interpreted in any way as throwing up clouds. If I wanted to throw up clouds, I would have not said anything at all. I didn’t do that.

  16. Early Churches of Penascola by Lelia Abercrombie lends insight into Pensacola’s past:

    “The churches suffered and shared together during the yellow fever epidemics, just as they did during the war for Southern Independence when only seventy white people and ten colored were left in Pensacola”

    70 whites and 10 colored” ??? Didn’t sound like a slave town.


    Pensacola City of Flag Flags and Pensacola 1559
    Escambia 1821-2021

    Could be an opportunity for the area.

    But no — instead people are capitalizing on the blame game and agenda to take down Trump by any means necessary. The riots aren’t about race completely and anyone following the national news can see it’s about a Socialist revolution and politics.

    For a supposed “historian” to release this at this time to influence an agenda is just more propaganda and fomenting the black identity politics attempting to gain moral ground.

    Tell the stories about the Knights of Columbus, the mafia, the unions. It was not all one group with clear angelic motives on all sides. In fact I’m reading another book about a little thing called the inquisition in England.

    Tell the story of when the railroad came in and running water was added and moved it from the frontier town to a more civilized era. What year was that?

    Be a huckleberry — not a dingleberry.

  17. No, Mr. Garner, I didn’t miss your point. And many others didn’t either. The clouds that get thrown up aren’t working any more. I texted a friend who made a fool of himself at the School Board meeting to not do it. If he did, he would only help the opposite side. And that I didn’t want to see him go down on record as doing it.

    Your comments are doing just the same, sadly. And it’s clear you don’t even realize it.

  18. Melissa,

    You miss my point. Yes, these materials should be made public. Had UWF not made them public, I would have.

    My point is that no one today should be blamed for the actions of their ancestors. There are many of us who chose a different path.

    Those who chose to participate in Klan activities in the past, like Wentworth, are justly open to criticism. They did what they did with their eyes open. But I don’t want us to assume that a descendant of Wentworth holds the same views just because he did.

    We’re all individuals.

  19. Mr. Garner, I’d like to come from the opposite perspective. My maiden name is Ware, which is perhaps a derivative of “weir.” It’s an ancient Anglo-Saxon name:


    The surname Ware is also on the list for probable “Melungeon” descent, which, if true, means that I am some mix of Turkish, Mediterranean littoral (including North Africa), Spanish, Portuguese, Scots Irish, Welsh, African American, and Native American Indian.

    I have a biological marker loosely referred to as “shovel teeth” which indicates that part of my ancestry was from the Anatolian Black Sea region. I’ve never bothered to get an ancestry test because I don’t care–I’m happy to be a mutt. And proud to own any of that descent, whatever portions are part of my family’s geneaology.

    I also have an extra bone in my foot that might include some Scandinavian roots–who knows. I didn’t know I even had it until my Chinese acupuncturist pointed it out when I was 32 and pursuing treatment for undiagnosed lyme disease.

    The conversation went like this:

    “Melissa, you have an extra bone in your foot!”
    “Who cares, Dr. Xu, I’m sick.”

    And he then explained that the extra bone could also be tied to other genetic predilections that were contributing to my condition. He kept me from dying before I had my official diagnosis, which took 8 years.

    I don’t care how mixed my genetic background is–I dearly hope I have a little of all of them. The only reason to know would be to help with health problems, but I’m such a mutt I doubt it would help much.

    What I would really like to know is if my family has a history of slave-holding. I kind of doubt it, only because I do know that my great great greats were coal miners in Appalachian Kentucky. But that doesn’t mean that other branches of the family weren’t.

    And as there are many African Americans with the last name Ware, it would help me figure out whether I might have relatives that I don’t know about because of a history of whitewashing. For all I know, I could have a relation here in Pensacola and have no idea. We have a family member tracing our “Melungeons” roots, but it’s really difficult because Appalachia 200 years ago wasn’t a herald of record keeping.

    REAL history, when done right, takes *all* data before formulating the best truth we can get at. I worked at the Massachusetts Historical Society, the oldest printing press and historical society in the country, and helped run their grants programs.

    One of the worst political conundrums that would pop up is when one of the blue-blood “came over on the original boat” Bostonians would have a historian stumble on the fact that their family was not only involved with triangulation of trade between Boston, Caribbean, and Africa, but also that, yes, Virginia, there were slave holders in Boston.

    If you think it is difficult for people in Pensacola to come to grips with that possible element in their past, imagine the hell-storms that would get set off when a historian funded by blue-blood contributors who sat the boards at the MHS would need to include their family name in their research.

    Pensacola is not alone in this.

    It’s time to just get it all out there. Not for blame. But so that people can understand how widespread this actually was. This isn’t about “outing.” This is about looking this squarely in the eye and saying, “let’s finally have these difficult conversations and talk truth and heal.”

    Not an easy thing to do in this environment. But thank you Rick for bravely pressing on where the other media sources in this town won’t.

    Oh, and for those of you multi-gen Pensacolians out there who “know” who your ancesters were?

    Pensacola was one of the original melting pots. I’d advise not getting a test on that, if you wouldn’t really want to know what the outcome would be.

  20. Looks like we’re going to have to re-name alot of things around town. 🤔🤷‍♂️

  21. I was surprised to read this line in the late UWF history Professor James R. McGovern’s insightful book The Emergence Of A City In the Modern South: Pensacola 1900-1945, “One contemporary declared that it [the local KKK] was centered in a local barbershop, that the Masons were all asked to join and many did.” Which barbershop and which local members of the already secret society Masons liked to dress up in hooded garb? According to McGovern, many of the KKK members came from “Baptist and Methodist men’s circles.” I bet a lot of the original ones lived in North Hill where everyone then looked down their nose at anyone who did not live in North Hill. McGovern describes that the first overt KKK activity in the city was on July 8, 1921 when Klansmen entered the Riverside Cafe on North Tarragona and gave the Greek owner a note that began, “You are an undesirable citizen.” He fled to Mobile. The police chief was in the cafe at the time but “made no effort to apprehend the robed Klansmen despite the fact they violated the law by being masked in public.” Someone could make a mini-series about Pensacola in this 1900-1945 era to include several episodes about the thriving Red Light District. New Pensacola is almost boring by comparison to those times. I had always thought that the KKK was focused just on making things bad for blacks. I was surprised to read in McGovern’s book that the local KKK here in Pensacola were “not greatly concerned about the Negro.” He adds, “The Klan did not appear aimed at him as much as ethnics, law breakers and possibly Catholics.”

  22. I had hoped that these membership lists (there are a total of 50 plus pages) would be released by UWF in a more sensitive fashion. These are important historical documents, and they should be made public.

    Having said that, there will be names from families in these lists that are still known in Pensacola today. What I sincerely hope we can avoid is blaming current family members for the actions of past family members. If that were the standard, I would have to be blamed for the actions of my own ancestors.

    I hope that we will be able to view persons today based on the content of their own character and not the character of those they happen to be related to who came before them.

Comments are closed.