The KKK Comes To Oneonta!
The Ku Klux Klan had more than 80,000 members in New York State in the 1920s. In fact, New York had the seventh largest membership of any state in the Union. The state headquarters was located in Binghamton. Because of the small number of African-Americans in our region, the KKK focused their vitriol on Jews, Cathoilics and immigrants.
There were a large number of public protests in the Oneonta and Norwich areas during this period. Local historians recall one of the largest public demonstrations in our area happened in Oneonta on October 16, 1926, in the waning days of the Klan's influence. On this day thousands lined Main Street to witness a parade of 500 fully robed Klansmen heading to a rally where they initiated nearly 100 new members from the Oneonta area under a large burning cross. Norwich and other Chenango County communities saw similar parades and rallies.
It is hard to imagine that this hate group had such a toehold in the Oneonta area as recently as 1926, a time for many of us that our parents and grandparents were alive.
One year after the large Oneonta KKK rally, the organization began to lose popularity. In 1927 a large planned KKK rally in Corning was canceled when black residents of the city insisted that the marchers parade without their hoods on. This followed a planned boycott of KKK-member businesses.
The state headquarters of the Klan in Binghamton closed shortly after the failed Corning rally.