IN 1958, the Lumbee Indians faced down the Ku Klux Klan:
The rally was scheduled for the night of January 18, 1958, in a field near Maxton, N.C. The stated purpose of the gathering was, in the words of Catfish Cole, “to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.” The time and location of the rally was not kept secret, and word spread quickly among the local Lumbee population.
Reports vary about the number of people gathered on that cold night, but there were thought to have been around a hundred Klan members. They brought a large banner emblazoned with “KKK” and a portable generator, which powered a public address system and a single bare light bulb. When the meeting began, the arc of the dim light didn’t spread far enough for the Klansmen to see that they were surrounded by as many as a thousand Lumbees. Several young tribe members, some of whom were armed, closed on the Klan meeting and tried to take down the light bulb. The groups fought, and a shotgun blast shattered the light. In the sudden darkness, the Lumbees descended upon the field, yelling and firing guns into the air, scattering the overmatched Klansmen. Some left under police protection while others, including Catfish Cole, simply took to the woods.
Captured banner worn by Charlie Warriax and Simeon Oxendine, Lumbee.From Life Magazine, the captured banner worn by two Lumbee Indians, Charlie Warriax and Simeon Oxendine.News photographers already on the scene captured the celebration. Images of triumphant Lumbees holding up the abandoned KKK banner were published in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Simeon Oxendine, a popular World War II veteran, appeared in Life Magazine, smiling and wrapped in the banner. The rout of the Klan galvanized the Lumbee community. The Ku Klux Klan was active in North Carolina into the 1960s, but they never held another public meeting in Robeson County.
So. About that gun debate. Is the right to carry arms a sign that America is backward?
Photo: Highway patrolmen help a man out of a field where a Ku Klux rally was to be held, Jan. 18, 1958. A gun battle took place between whites and Indians after a schedule Klan rally failed to get under warpath after a cross was burned in front of an Indian. (AP Photo)