When I was in about fourth or fifth grade in Tuscaloosa in the mid-1970s, there was a proper little girl in my class who wore a girdle and hairspray. One Monday she came to school giggling nervously because she had gotten in a bit of trouble while visiting her grandparents’ house. She had been playing in her grandparents’ closet, and in the back, behind some old coats, she had found her grandfather’s Ku Klux Klan robes. Her grandmother had discovered her in the closet and told her to get out of there.
As usual, I had a lot of questions. How did she know they were Klan robes? They were made out of sheets. Who made them? Probably her grandmother, because she could sew. Why did they still have them? (That is, from my point of view, why didn’t they get rid of the “evidence”? Why would you hold onto something from a misguided, bygone era?) And she said, well, her grandfather never got rid of anything. This made sense to me, because old people in my family held onto string and baling twine, Mason jars and milk bottles.
The next year, a young black man was lynched in Northport. We had moved again, so I didn’t have to look at the girl as I wondered how much her grandfather knew about it.
Susan Di Biase