Press
Press Release - Detail
Roy L. Williams            
Director of Public Relations        
Birmingham Public Library             
Phone: (205) 226-3746 cell (205) 568-0067            
E-mail: rlwilliams@bham.lib.al.us  

For immediate release Friday, June 16, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- Helping patrons do research is one of the favorite parts of Laura Gentry’s job as a librarian in the Birmingham Public Library’s Southern History Department downtown. It allows her to learn something odd, new, different, or even gain knowledge about a forgotten, yet important event in Alabama’s history.

That was the case in early June when Gentry helped David Kelley of WBRC Fox 6 with Southern History’s digital microfilm scanner earlier this month, as she recalled in a blog posted today, June 16, on the BPL website (see link below: http://bplolinenews.blogspot.com/2017/06/girl-scouts-camp-fletcher-and-ku-klux.html).

Media from across the country often visit to use the library’s collection of newspaper microfilm, and Kelley was researching a story about the Girl Scouts, Camp Fletcher, and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for Fox 6’s new TV show, Bounce Around Birmingham, which showcases compelling stories that impact the African American community. Tune in on Monday, June 19, at 6 p.m., to watch the segment. “Bounce Around Birmingham” airs every Monday at 6 p.m. on the Bounce TV Channel 6.2.

The segment tells the frightening 1948 story of the Ku Klux Klan invading an African American Girl Scout camp in Jefferson County after hearing word of two white Girl Scout instructors coming in to teach leadership to 20 African American girls.

In June 1948, two white Girl Scout instructors, Katrine Nickel and Elizabeth Ijams, came to Camp Pauline Bray Fletcher, an African American camp, to teach leadership training sessions for about 20 African American girls. Because there were no qualified African American women to conduct similar leadership training sessions, Nickel and Ijams came down from Memphis to train these African American women. The Girl Scout leaders claimed they had segregated bath and sleeping facilities but did have to share the toilet facilities.

Word of the white Girl Scout instructors’ presence reached the Ku Klux Klan, who felt it was not proper for white women to be working and living within the boundaries of an African American camp, and decided to conduct a night raid to frighten Nickel and Ijams into leaving camp. According to Katrine Nickel, between 8 to 10 robed, masked men entered their tent, woke them up, shined flashlights in their faces, rifled through their purses and belongings, and ordered them to get out within 24 hours. As a result of the threat, Camp Fletcher closed and sent everyone home. E.P. Pruitt, president of the Birmingham’s Ku Klux Klan, released a statement denying the involvement of the Klan in the Camp Pauline Bray Fletcher incident, but the description of the attackers left little doubt in most people’s minds that the raid was the work of the Klan.

In the aftermath of the incident, the Jefferson County Girl Scout Council asked for an investigation both by local law enforcement and the FBI. The Negro Citizens Defense Committee petitioned Governor Jim Folsom and Attorney General A.A. Carmichael to protect the African American community in the wake of increased violence in Birmingham. There had been a similar incident at Camp Blossom Hill, as well as the deaths of six African Americans allegedly at the hands of the police. Attorney Abe Berkowitz asked the Alabama’s Attorney General A.A. Carmichael to revoke the Ku Klux Klan’s charter. Local businessmen founded Citizens Against Mobism (CAM) in 1949 to advocate for an anti-masking law by curtailing the influence of the KKK from their mask of anonymity.

Public outcry and negative national press helped encourage action against the Ku Klux Klan. A year later, the Alabama legislature passed the first anti-masking law which made it a misdemeanor to appear in public wearing a mask. It carried a $500 fine or one year in jail for violation. It was the first anti-masking law enacted in the Deep South since Reconstruction and weakened the power of the Ku Klux Klan.
Don’t forget to watch the segment this Monday, June 19, at 6 p.m. on the Bounce TV Channel 6.2.

About the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)
 For additional information about the programs and services of the Birmingham Public Library, visit our website at www.bplonline.org and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BPL. The mission of Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life-long learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment. This system—with 19 locations and serving the community for 130 years—is one of the largest library systems in the southeast. 

Links:
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[1] http://bplolinenews.blogspot.com/2017/06/girl-scouts-camp-fletcher-and-ku-klux.html
[2] http://www.wbrc.com/story/35559615/wbrc-to-launch-new-program-bounce-around-birmingham
[3] http://weldbham.com/blog/2012/07/18/unmasking-the-klan-late-1940s-coalition-against-racial-violence/
[4] http://www.bplonline.org/
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