Sep. 1923 – Ku Klux Klan in Follansbee

1923 – Ku Klux Klan in Follansbee
As Follansbee grew into a mill town, the newly arrived immigrants, primarily Catholic peoples of central and southern Europe, clashed with the Protestant population. The city became divided as new immigrants settled in the city’s lower end. (See .“Orchard” and “Lower End” on timeline)

In addition, the Ku Klux Klan was a major social force even before the 1920s targeting hostility toward Catholics, and especially colored families.   In October 1916, following a wedding and reception at a home on Main Street, about 30 local boys, all dressed as “The Ku Klux Klan,” took charge of the groom and paraded the street, with red lights burning brightly.” The Steubenville Gazette reported that this was becoming the usual custom in Follansbee.

In October 1923, a dozen or more black families were preparing to leave Follansbee because of a warning painted on a tin mill fence facing their section of town. “The message was painted shortly after two fiery crosses were burned on the hill overlooking the colored section.” The Ku Klux Klan was credited with warning all blacks to leave immediately, according to the Pittsburgh Courier. “Race citizens for years were excluded from the town. But recently many colored families were brought in by industrial concerns.”

American sociologist, James W. Loewen classified Follansbee as a “Sundown Town,” where Blacks were forced (or strongly encouraged) to leave prior to sundown in order to avoid racial violence perpetrated by majority white populations. Loewen maintained that Follansbee kept out African Americans “for years” before the early1920s.

Steubenville Weekly Gazette, “Follansbee,” Oct. 12, 1916, p.2.

The Pittsburgh Courier, “WVa Families Is Laid by Klan, “ Oct. 24, 1923, front page.

James W. Loewen, “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” (Simon & Schuster, 2006), p. 71.