audio Episode 4: The Klan Query

Rebecca holds up a photocopy of an old newspaper article: "Alberta's Ku Klux Klansmen" by Richard DeCandole
Rebecca looks through newspaper articles about the history of the KKK in Alberta

This episode: The Klan Query. Rebecca Jade asks whether we can put a plaque where the Ku Klux Klan used to publish their newspaper in Edmonton – The Liberator. Along the way we learn about the mayor and premier who lent support to the KKK, a fiery picnic, and what the point of a plaque is anyway.

We posed our question to the Edmonton Historical Board’s Barbara Hilden, chair of the Plaques and Awards committee.

spoilers below

An article of the Liberator criticizing Edmonton's Mayor Douglas for being too supportive of Catholics.
An article of the Liberator criticizing Edmonton’s Mayor Douglas for being too supportive of Catholics.

As we found out in William Peter Baergen’s history The Ku Klux Klan in Central Alberta, The Liberator was a newspaper published in Edmonton in the 1930s, when the KKK had a slightly different obsession than today. In addition to their hostility towards blacks and anyone with an accent, they were viciously anti-Catholic.

Another Liberator article criticizing Catholics.

Local KKK leader JJ Maloney encouraged Edmontonians to vote out Mayor Douglas in 1931. His opponent Daniel Knott won with 58% of the vote. In celebration, KKK members lit a fiery cross on Connors Hill. (By the way, in the podcast I did not know offhand Edmonton’s population in 1931. According to Stats Canada, it was 79, 059).

An Edmonton Journal article about the cross burning on November 12, 1931.
An Edmonton Journal article about the cross burning on November 12, 1931.

In 1932 and 1933, the KKK requested permission to use the Edmonton Exhibition Grounds (now known as Northlands) for a picnic and fiery cross burning. Both times, Mayor Knott approved their request. The second time around, the fire chief lodged concerns about the size of the fire.

The letters between the City of Edmonton the KKK (below) are fascinating.

We discovered that the Liberator was printed at a building that no longer exists. Their address was #13, 10105 – 100th St. Barbara Hilden met us at that site, which is now a parking lot between The Westin and the World Trade Centre (home of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse).

Barbara Hilden and Rebecca Jade stand on 100 St. Behind them is a parking lot between two large buildings (The Westin and the World Trade Centre)
The site where 10105 – 100 St used to be. Nowadays it’s a parking lot south of The Westin hotel, and north of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse/the World Trade Centre building.

Correction: After publishing this podcast, we learned more about the building, and it seems more accurate to say it was roughly where the World Trade Centre stands today (to the right of the yellow circle in the picture). Learn more in this Mini-Update.

Barbara told us that the board would indeed be interested in looking into a plaque for this site, but a good first step would be to put an article up about it on the Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage website, which the Edmonton Historical Board has used to capture stories about other buildings that no longer exist.

Barbara Hilden and Rebecca Jade standing side by side in an alley, both in long black coats
Barbara Hilden and Rebecca Jade standing on near the site where The Liberator used to be published.

Barbara asked Rebecca to come to an upcoming board meeting to present her case. I will be attending too, and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Further reading:


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