The Greene County Agricultural Society overreacted when it removed a historical picture of a Ku Klux Klan rally and revoked the photo’s first-place ribbon, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
“Instead of shielding the photograph from public view, fair officials should have seized this opportunity to spark discussion around the often painful history of racial discrimination in our nation,” James Hardiman, ACLU legal director, said in a Thursday news release. The actions were “clearly an overreaction on the part of county fair officials.”
Jeff Barr, fair director, said Thursday that officials based their decision on what they believed necessary after receiving complaints from a fair-goer.
“Certainly, it is part of our history, but the fair being inclusive of all people, we felt it should not be displayed,” he said.
Shortly after news stories about the fair’s actions appeared Wednesday, a Facebook posting appeared with another historic KKK photo that was allegedly displayed at the Clark County Fair. A blue ribbon accompanied the picture.
Carol Floyd, Clark County Agricultural Society secretary, confirmed the photo had been displayed with other antiques. “I was just perusing the displays when I saw it in a display case. I thought, ‘that’s interesting’,” she said.
Floyd could not immediately say what category the photo was entered in or whether it had won an award.
The Greene County photo, entered in the antique adult group category, shows what appears to be several hundred KKK members gathering in a circle, kneeling as they surround three to five robed members in the middle of the circle.
Three burning crosses are in the background of the photo. In the lower left corner of the photo are the words, written on three lines: “Dayton Klan 23…Realm-of-Ohio… September, 27, 1924.”
The Clark County photo is a group shot of several hundred men garbed in Klan wear. Beneath the photo are the words Klark Kounty Klan #59 Realm of Ohio. The photo is not dated.
Barr, the Greene County Fair director, said he believes the person who complained was offended by the content and thought the fair was endorsing the Klan by awarding the photo a ribbon.
Judges study entries for the artistic value and don’t look at the content, Barr said. “On things like that, it’s one person’s opinion. … The photo was not something we support at all. The photo does not show anything for the fair.”
He declined to identify the owner or the judges. He did say the winner’s premium was $6.
Clark County’s Floyd said she heard no complaints about the photo. Fair director Allan Hess, likewise, said he knew of no complaints from fair-goers last week.
“It’s American history whether we are pleased with it or ashamed of it,” Floyd said of the photo.