The Modern Ku Klux Klan At St Mungo Museum In Glasgow

By Caroline Lewis | 22 November 2005
Shows a black and white photo of a burning cross and the letters KKK against a night sky.

Dec 31, 2001; Petal, Mississippi. South Mississippi Knights participate in a cross-lighting ceremony following the wedding of Klan member Jerry O'Donnell.

Mention the Ku Klux Klan and most of us will think of an outdated movement that America has consigned to the history books along with segregation and lynching. However, groups still meet all over the Southern states under the name of the KKK, in the same terrifying garb of white cloaks and hoods, with the same ideology of racial separation.

Generation KKK: Passing the Torch is an exhibition of black and white photography documenting the modern-day KKK in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. It's on show at Glasgow’s St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art from November 18 2005 to April 9 2006.

Shows a black and white photo of a small boy holding on to the branch of a tree, which on the other side has a golliwog hanging from it, rope around its neck.

Aug 10, 2002; Petal, Mississippi.

Above: The son of a Klansman is pictured with a doll hanging from a noose at the home of South Mississippi Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Jimmie Maxey during a memorial rally following Maxey's death.

The compelling and dramatic series of 40 photographs was taken between 1998 and 2002 by award-winning photographer James Edward Bates, of the ZUMA Press picture agency.

“It is not my place to judge either side of this or any issue,” commented Bates. “Certainly, I have an opinion, but it is my responsibility as a photojournalist to document life as it happens before me. The work should speak for itself. These images stir emotions, from which comes awareness.”

The recent death of Rosa Parks brought the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement back into the news, and highlighted how far the United States has come in terms of racial equality. The diverse communities of the Southern States may have come a long way towards reconciliation, but tensions remain.

Shows a photo of KKK members in white outfits waving flaming torches at night. One of them is a small child.

Jun 12, 2001; Pearl, Mississippi. Klansman Art Dixon shows his son Floyd Dixon the proper way to hold a torch during a South Mississippi Knights of the Ku Klux Klan cross-lighting ceremony. Pictured in his first robe, Floyd is a fifth generation Klansman.

Bates grew up in south Mississppi – an area where segregation was only reluctantly abandoned and where African-American churches were burnt to the ground as recently as the mid-1990s.

His images prove that the KKK ideology, far from being a historic institution associated with the late 19th and early 20th century, is alive and well in Southern communities. What is more, the ethos of white supremacy and racial separation is firmly embedded in the social structure of some communities, and KKK beliefs and traditions are being passed down from generation to generation.

Shows a photo of a man in KKK costume buying something over the counter in a shop.

Jun 12, 2001; Pelahatchie, MS. Klansmen from South Mississippi Knights and Alabama White Knights shop at a Super Stop convenience store following a protest rally.

Cllr John Lynch, convener of Glasgow City Council’s Cultural and Leisure Services committee, said: “This exhibition is undoubtedly important in reminding visitors to the museum that racism and other forms of prejudice still exist, not only in America but all over the world."

"The fact that children feature so often in these photographs only underlines the need to educate our own young people about all the problems that racist and separatist ideologies cause to us all,” he added.

Generation KKK is part of Bates’ lifelong aim to document racial challenges both in America and throughout the world. He began following the activities of the KKK in 1998, recording their words and actions accurately and honestly, without judgement.

His KKK reportage was first shown at the photojournalism festival Visa Pour L’Image, in Perpignan, France, 2003. St Mungo Museum is the only venue to show the exhibition in the UK

All images © ZUMApress.

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