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Posted 09/21/2009

W. Horace Carter, the journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for standing up to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s, has died. He spoke to the SOHP in 1976.

Carter remembered the Klan motorcade that announced a more aggressive posture in Tabor County.

You see, up to then everything had been under cover, but when they come up with a motorcade, then you know that all these things you’ve been hearing are real. You realize that they are organizing and that they are gathering strength. And this did antagonize us, because at that time the way those motorcades worked they had these lighted crosses on the front car; they had the dome lights burning in all the other cars, with people in them with the masks on and the robes, disguised obviously. And what they did then is, they came up and down our main streets, but primarily they went up and down through all of the black section of town—then that was known as “The Bottom.” That’s what they called the Negro section, and they went up and down through these sections and tried to, more or less, intimidate these people. And, you know, I just felt it was wrong, that’s all.

Remembering the people of Tabor County’s relationship to the Klan:

The majority didn’t want to be on either side. The majority wanted to be just quiet about it; they didn’t want the Klan after them, and they didn’t want the people who were anti-Klan to know just where they stood either. So I’d say that the overwhelming majority were neutral, at least openly were neutral. But there was a lot of sentiment for the Klan. I continue to say, though, that the bulk of the people who were in the Klan itself were in there because of the adventure involved; not because of the moral aspects of it, but because they saw in this a chance to exert some power. And I think they were adventurous types, and I think that was the bulk of the people. Generally, though, the man on the street wasn’t for the Klan nor was he anti-Klan; he just didn’t care much. He just wanted to stay out of it, because they had some fear. I think the man on the street had some fear; as the floggings kept up they ran into numerous reasons why it was a litle bit risky for them to say anything either way.

WUNC’s remembrance of Carter …
The New York Times obituary …
Learn more about Carter at the Carter-Klan Documentary Project …
And listen to the Southern Oral History Program interview with Carter at Documenting the American South …