Although many refuse to discuss it, or even acknowledge the fact, it is true that Vermont history includes a period of involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. At the time, in the 1920s, Vermont’s leading citizens were certainly included in the numbers. In St. Johnsbury, the minister of the Congregational Church delivered a sermon on “The Psychology of the Ku Klux Klan” where he reasoned that the cross-burnings and bonfire rallies must have some justification or else they would not have caught on so rapidly. Soon, there were enough members there to get a legal charter and stage a public meeting in a field outside of town where over two thousand klansmen gathered, most in full regalia, many with faces covered.
Similar gatherings took place in Windsor, Springfield and elsewhere. By the mid-twenties, more than 14,000 Vermonters in Chittenden, Washington, Orange and Caledonia counties had paid the $10 initiation fee, making the klan a force to be reckoned with politically. Calvin Coolidge, running for president, stated that he was not a member of the KKK, but “Silent Cal” was true to form in refusing to condemn the klan by name. And while several towns including Burlington passed local ordinances that forbid wearing masks in public for the purpose of reigning in the klan’s activities, a similar statewide statute was killed in the senate in Montpelier.
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