A dark chapter: should Edmonton's KKK history be acknowledged?
'I hadn't realized that they were so active in Edmonton,' says historian laureate Chris Chang-Yen Phillips
On what is now an unremarkable parking lot in downtown Edmonton, there once stood a key source of propaganda for Alberta's Ku Klux Klan.
In the 1930s, the long-since demolished building housed the Liberator, the Klan-controlled newspaper that published hateful vitriol and helped inflame xenophobia during the depths of Depression-era Alberta.
The site today bears no markers of its dark history.
Rebecca Jade wants to change that.
Jade is asking the city to erect a plaque where the newspaper office once stood.
Jade said she recently learned about the once powerful hold the Klan had on Alberta.
She did her own research then began to delve into the city archives for traces of the KKK, with help from Edmonton's historian laureate Chris Chang-Yen Phillips.
Jade and Chang-Yen Phillips discovered the Liberator was printed in a building that no longer exists.
The address was 13, 10105 100th St., near the World Trade Centre. Now that the location has been identified, Jade hopes its history will be acknowledged.
"I've lived in Edmonton for five years and I didn't know about this history, and I think that's a real statement about how inaccessible this information is to us," Jade said.
"I think that there is a lot of value in providing opportunities for people to educate themselves."
Jade and Chang-Yen Phillips have collaborated on a number of podcasts chronicling what they've found so far. The documentation, although sparse, provides a sobering view of the past.
The KKK were once a powerful force in Edmonton under the leadership of John James Maloney, a seminarian who had worked to revive the movement in Saskatchewan.
The KKK hosted lavish dinners and public gatherings, attended by hundreds. In 1931, the group celebrated Daniel Knott's mayoral victory by lighting a fiery cross on Connors Hill.
On more than one occasion during Knott's term, they requested permission to use the Edmonton Exhibition Grounds (now known as Northlands) for a picnic and cross burning.
Jade hopes the painful chapter won't be erased. She has planned a meeting with the Edmonton Historical Board to discuss the possibility of a monument.
"It's really important to learn about the way racism is intentional," Jade said. "It helps us break it down instead of believing it's an accident or doesn't actually exist."
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