Apparently the World’s First NAACP-Klan Meeting ‘Went Well’

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J. Stephen Conn / Flickr Photo: J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

The Casper Star-Tribune's blow-by-blow description of what was apparently the first sit-down meeting between a Klu Klux Klan organizer and an NAACP leader is a fascinating read that ends with Jimmy Simmons, the president of the NAACP's Casper branch, unconvinced that John Abarr, a so-called kleagle for the Klan in Great falls, Wyoming, understood anything he had to say. Despite this, the Associated Press later reported that Simmons said the meeting went well. "They're trying to shed that violent skin, but it seems like they're just changing the packaging," Simmons told the AP. "I don't know if we accomplished too much," Abarr told the AP. "We're not about violence. We're about being proud to be white." So they're clearly not on the same page.

Simmons, who set up the meeting in response to a rash of attacks on black men and the distribution of Klan literature in Gillette, north of Casper, had told Abarr during their chat, "it’s obvious you don’t know the history of your organization," per The Tribune. But he also told the AP the meeting was "about opening dialogue with a group that claims they're trying to reform themselves from violence." And in that way, the meeting was a success. They talked, they were civil, and then Abarr joined the NAACP and gave a $20 donation. Abarr did not invite anybody at the meeting to join the Klan, though, he told the AP. "You have to be white to join the Klan."