When the Ku Klux Klan Arrived in Binghamton
For a brief time in the early 20th century, Binghamton was home to the New York state headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. On St. Patrick's Day in 1923, city residents were shocked to discover pamphlets promoting the Klan had been left at their homes.
Broome County historian Gerald Smith said the distribution of the literature in the middle of the night served as an announcement "that the KKK was coming."
Smith said after World War One ended, there was a growing resentment toward the thousands of immigrants who were coming to the United States. He said some people contended the new arrivals were "taking American jobs away" from those who were already here.
The Klan's state headquarters were housed in a building near Henry and Wall streets, in the area where the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade now is located.
Smith said the KKK was active in many areas of New York state, including Ithaca, Syracuse, Niagara Falls and New York City.
Parades of men and women members of the Klan marched in along Court Street in downtown Binghamton. Cross burnings and KKK rallies were held at Stow Flats in Binghamton and in the Union District of Endicott.
Binghamton's past KKK activity sparked a new controversy in 1993 when civil rights activists called for the removal of a reference to the activity in a tourism brochure distributed by the Broome County Chamber of Commerce.
Although the Klan's activities in the Binghamton area may be unpleasant and disturbing to recall, Smith said it's important for people to be aware of local history. He said "if you don't remember what (happened) in the past, you're doomed to repeat it.