Fear: Ku Klux Klan, DeKalb County


Local Ku Klux Klan activities were first reported in 1923. The September 5, 1923, Sycamore True Republican headline read, “Ku Klux Klaner Visits Sycamore.” A visitor to the newspaper’s office was doing business for the Klan: “The stranger asked us as to the editor’s attitude toward the movement. The editor was evasive, but politely inquired the visitor’s name. He replied that ‘they’ did not usually announce their names, and shortly departed.” [1] The crowd at a Klan rally several days later in Rockford, IL, was estimated at 40,000 people. [2]

Sycamore True Republican September 5, 1923.

The Klan targeted larger cities for rallies, pageantry, and violent bullying in the early 1920s; reports of meetings and demonstrations in Sycamore, Kirkland, Maple Park, and DeKalb are found in newspapers beginning in 1924. The Sycamore True Republican announced that over 12,000 people attended a rally in August 1924: “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Sycamore gave their first public outdoor demonstration last night, Thursday, and acres of automobiles were parked in Sabin Field just east of town, . . . Blazing crosses could be seen for miles.” [3]

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought a massive drop in Ku Klux Klan membership. By 1944, most of the Klan had disbanded. A national resurgence during the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s led to an attempt to create a chapter in DeKalb County in 1975. Only six people were known to be involved, so the chapter was never established. [5]

The University of Illinois newspaper database for DeKalb County returns over 700 hits when searching for the word “Klan.” While some of these are articles are connected to national topics, a significant number are reporting on local Klan activities. The following are a few additional examples about the Ku Klux Klan in DeKalb County:

DeKalb Daily Chronicle , September 5, 1923.

This early article shows the Klan was working on creating a charter in Sycamore in 1923. Then, by July 1924, it looks like the Klan was easily accepted into the local community as there were advertisements to join the fun “Come out and have a good time!”

Sycamore True Republican , July 16, 1924.

This large newspaper announcement is an invitation to the public to be part of a Klan rally at Sabin’s Field in Sycamore (today this is along Airport Road near the Sycamore Park District’s Citizen Park). The invitation encourages members to join their Naturalization event, where invitees will hear the “truth” about the Ku Klux Klan. This ad also advertised “Huge fiery crosses, a mammoth display of fireworks and live music.”

Sycamore True Republican August 13, 1924.

A week later, there was a follow-up to the large gathering at Sabin Field. The headline states over 12,000 attended, with 80 initiated. It describes how the meeting began with the parade through Sycamore, which included the Sycamore Band and 132 Klansmen and women in their robes, but not wearing masks.

Sycamore True Republican August 23, 1924.

[1] Sycamore True Republican, September 5, 1923.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Sycamore True Republican, August 23, 1924.

[4] Sycamore True Republican, November 28, 1923.

[5] Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission, October 1976.

Do You Have a Story?

Share All Histories