Ku Klux Klan members lived in every corner of Denver during the brief reign of the racist, anti-immigrant hate group in the 1920s, shows a new map of the members’ addresses.
History Colorado employees spent more than 300 hours logging and mapping each address listed in the nearly 30,000 entries in two ledgers in the organization’s archive, which roughly document the membership of the Denver KKK chapter from 1924 to 1926.
The mapping project followed the digitization of Ledger’s content and their publication this spring, making the information readily accessible to the public for the first time.
There is no similar map anywhere else in the United States, said Sean Boyd, curator of the Archives at History Colorado.
Boyd said, “You can see that wherever you go, you will find people who belonged to the Klan.” “They were just everywhere.”
Despite the excessive number of dots on the map, historian Robert Goldberg said it is important to remember that the KKK represents a minority in Denver. About 30,000 names are listed on the books—about 11% of Denver’s population of 256,000. The bookkeeping also includes men who have listed out-of-town addresses and some names are listed multiple times.
“The image you get is that Denver is 100% Klan, and that’s wrong,” Goldberg, a retired professor of history at the University of Utah, said of the map.
The map confirms Goldberg’s assessment in his 1981 book, “The Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado,” that Klanmen spread to every corner of the city. This book was the first in-depth analysis of the contents of lasers and they plotted the addresses of 958 samples out of 17,000 entries of lasers on a map of Denver from 1924.
“The Klan was a cross-section of the white, male Protestant population,” Goldberg said, noting membership in that group spanned class, age, and occupation.
Goldberg found four areas where Klan membership was concentrated: the Berkeley area in northwest Denver, the Platt River and Cherry Creek, the area between south Denver and Capitol Hill. For example, a block of Yates Street in the Berkeley neighborhood includes 12 addresses in the bookkeeping. On nearby Tennyson Street, many of the addresses are now occupied by restaurants, bars and boutiques that once belonged to Klanmann.
Goldberg was not surprised to find addresses in and around Denver’s immigrant and black neighborhoods from that time, including Five Points, where most of Denver’s black residents lived in the 1920s.
Goldberg wrote, “No neighborhood, whether rich, middle class, decaying, old or new, was not outside the bounds of Claverne’s Clegles.” The Klegels were the recruiters of the Klan and the Claverns were the local group.
During that time the KKK acted as an effective political machine in Denver, installing Klanmann as governor of Colorado, Denver’s mayor and police chief, judges, state senators, and representatives. Dozens of Klan members worked in city halls, police departments, fire departments, and other civilian institutions.
The museum put Klanmann’s addresses on a map of modern Denver, so some of the addresses may have changed in the 100 years since the KKK’s height in the city. Boyd said this could make it difficult to know whether some of the Klan addresses on the map were resistant to the KKK or simply did not have many residential properties.
History Despite the number of hours Colorado employees put on the books, there are still some things they don’t understand. Some names have small symbols in front of them, whose meaning is not known by historians. Other names have been omitted. And although the ledgers were only for the Denver chapter of the KKK, some members listed addresses outside the city.
“There’s so much about these lasers that we don’t know,” Boyd said.
Goldberg wants to do more research about how communities targeted by the Klan – Black, Latino, Catholic and Jewish communities – responded to their power in Denver.
“I am hoping that there are stories within these different communities that will help create a counterculture to the Klan,” he said.