Two Ku Klux Klan robes have been added to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open to the public in 2015, the Washington Post reported.
The robes were presented to the museum by Sandra Parks, the wife of late Florida civil rights author Stetson Kennedy, Florida’s St. Augustine reported. Although St. Augustine plans to open its own Civil Rights Museum, Parks said these robes were “significant” and wanted them to be seen by a larger audience.
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“The purpose of the gift was to show the world the absurdity of an American terrorist organization from the inside,” said Parks, the Washington Post reported. “Exposure is the issue here and there is no place in America that the story can be better depicted than in the Smithsonian. More Americans will come to understand the significance and the bravery of the people who fought against this powerful and destructive organization.”
Kennedy kept the black robe after he infiltrated the Klan in the 1940s and rose to the ranks of its security forces, a squad that tried to protect the group’s secrecy, the Washington Post reported.
“At one point Stetson contacted the FBI and it got back to the Klan. Stetson was put in charge of the Klan’s investigation of the source. He was investigating himself,” said Parks to the Washington Post.
The second scarlet robe belonged to Phineas Miller Nathaniel Wilds, a chaplain in the Klan and was donated by his great-grandson Richard M. Rousseau, in the name of the family, the Washington Post reported. Parks said this was more historically valuable item of the two, St. Augustine reported.
“When my great-grandfather died, the robe was given to a great-aunt, who kept it until the 1960s,” Rousseau said, St. Augustine reported. “Then it was given to my first cousin, Margaret Sue Rousseau Barthel of Pensacola, who had it until 2000. Then it was given to me. Until my cousin gave me the robe, I had no idea of any family member being in the Klan.”
The newest Smithsonian museum received a $5 million gift from Wal-Mart in October, which will go into the construction fund of the museum. The museum’s cost is estimated at $500 million, with half the support coming from the public and the remainder appropriated by Congress, the Washington Post reported.
Construction will begin on the museum in 2012 and scheduled to open across from the Washington Monument in 2015.