When the Ku Klux Klan Meets the NAACP

Two radically different organizations come together behind closed doors.

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Ku Klux Klan robe on exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (Karin Zeitvogel/Getty Images)

Last Saturday, in Casper, Wyo., members of the local chapter for the NAACP met with a representative of United Klans of America, more widely known as the Ku Klux Klan.

With heavy security patrolling the Parkway Plaza Hotel, the two groups met in an attempt to broker some kind of peace and understanding, at least locally, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. 

Jimmy Simmons, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's branch in Casper, didn't expect to get a return letter from the KKK.

For months he had been hearing reports that black men in Gillette were getting beat up. Inevitably the men were with white women when assaulted. Then Klan literature showed up around town. Simmons considered rallying against the Klan, but then decided to try something different: talking.

"If you want to talk about hate, get a hater," Simmons said later. "Let him tell you something about hate."

He looked up some contact information and in June, asked for a meeting with the KKK.

Simmons wouldn't get specific, but it seems the NAACP headquarters wasn't pleased he planned to talk to the Klan. He eventually got the go-ahead, provided the meeting took place in Casper, Simmons' turf. A moderator from Colorado planned to come, but then she broke off contact.

The Casper NAACP would meet with the Klan alone, in the person of John Abarr.

Now here was Abarr, not dressed in his Klan regalia -- the white hood and robe, the history of hateful violence -- but in a dark suit, white shirt and a nondescript tie, his hand extended toward Simmons.

"Hello, John."

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