Whitewashing the Past: A KKK Display in a Small Rural Midwestern Town

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In States of Denial, Stanly Cohen describes how individuals and institutions know about yet deny the occurrences of oppressive acts, seeing only what they want to see and wearing blinders to avoid seeing the rest. Cohen emphasizes that denial though deplorable is complicated. It is not simply a matter of refusing to acknowledge the obvious, though uncomfortable, truth. Many people “know” and “not-know” about human suffering at the time. “Whitewashing the Past” explores White supremacy’s legacy in the rural Midwest through its telling of a town’s reaction and non-reaction to a truth compromising library display of the town’s Ku Klux Klan’s history. Racial segregation and racial indifference maintain the American caste system that renders African Americans’ experiences as irrelevant to rural Midwest majority White towns, when their very composition as majority White is dependent on exclusionary Sundown policies and ordinances that are “known” and “not known.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-136
Number of pages3
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Ku Klux Klan
  • racial indifference
  • rural Midwest
  • sundown towns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Whitewashing the Past: A KKK Display in a Small Rural Midwestern Town'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this