On Tuesday, January 5th 2016, a Declaration of Dissolution was signed to disband America’s largest, oldest, and very homegrown active terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan.
The campaign that led to the Dissolution of the clan was led by Rev. James H. Stern, joined by members of METal International, Josh Isaacson, Steven Rubin, Kent Purdy, Artist Jabu and Ben Cooke. Also participating were Lieutenant Shakir and Arne List.
The issuing of such a document will doubtlessly mark a moment in history. However, there are two stories here to be told in parallel. One is the story of the long sustained political campaign (which one can trackback to the initiation of the Civil Rights movement), whilst the other story develops at a personal level and is about the seemingly unfathomable agreement and understanding that grew between the founder of Mississippi Racial Reconciliation, Rev. James Stern, and the KKK’s Imperial Wizard, Edgar Ray Killen. Dualisms, dichotomies and contrasts find harmonious ways to coexist in these unprecedented and extraordinary events, much as duality is central to all American history. Dual are the ongoing fights on terror undertaken in-house and offshore, and the country’s very constitution is formed by the unity of its states yet characterized by the division of its inhabitants. Between those in favour of gun ownership and those arguing for gun control. Between the democratic voters on the coastal territories and the republicans in the inner counties. Between, topically enough, pacifist reconcilers and haters.
A key member of the movement for disbanding the organization, Josh Isaacson, was kind enough to lend me some of his time and give me a glimpse into this complex and interesting, albeit still obscure, American tale and the KKK’s disbanding last Tuesday.
We spoke over Skype yet the excitement on his side was almost tangible. He explained how this marks the start of ending a history of violence, bloodshed and suffering inflicted upon Americans for decades. Josh has been the victim of antisemitic verbal abuse himself and feels very personally involved.
I asked him how Stern came to own power of attorney over Edgar Ray Killen’s statements and the upcoming biographical book and movie rights. I learnt how Stern met Killen as they shared a cell at Parchman Prison, Mississippi. They apparently bonded over Stern standing up for Killen over a fight. As the relationship between the two developed, Killen confessed to Stern his involvement in 32 cold case murders.
During this time Stern also received from Killen all rights to use his confessions, documented in over 170 letters. The material handed over by Killen will provide a unique foundation for a forthcoming film already being discussed in Hollywood quarters. It is Stern’s expressed wish to commission Josh Isaacson of METal International with the script.
Finally, I asked Josh whether he would say last Tuesday was a victory for America. His answer could only be one thing: an enthusiastic YES!
All images courtesy of METal.