Past not perfect, but our history full of welcoming people
After reading the Dec. 23 Marshall Independent article entitled, “Historian surprised to find a history of racism in her hometown”, I felt compelled to comment.
As a retired career high school history teacher of 35 years at Tracy Area High School, the article is accurate about the KKK being in Minnesota in the early 20th century. There is little that would show that the KKK, formed in 1865 in Tennessee, ever gained a foothold here. The evil that is the Ku Klux Klan, was founded, nutured, and thrived in southern and southeastern states, not Minnesota.
My major disagreement with the story is that the article fails to even mention a more important history.
The instructor never mentioned the history of sacrifice and compassion displayed by the good people of our area toward immigrants, refugees and newcomers to Minnesota.
In 1830, at almost the same time as the Abolitionist Movement started in America, a major new political party was formed in the southern and eastern United States. This political party, the Democratic Party, would support slavery, discrimination and the goals of the KKK for nearly 100 years.
In dramatic contrast, in 1861, Minnesota became the very first state in the Union to send troops to the Civil War. Although a sparsely populated state of just a 180,000 people, 22,000 brave Minnesotans would join the crusade to end slavery. Minnesota soldiers would forever distinguish themselves for holding the line at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
Sadly, 2,500 sons of Minnesota would die during the American Civil War, and many more would be wounded, all to end the scourge of slavery in the United States. Hardly the legacy of racist people who supported the evil that is the KKK.
After the Civil War, railroads were being built all over Minnesota. Several new towns including Tracy, Marshall and Minneota popped up on a new 57 mile spur line built in 1872 from Tracy to Gary, South Dakota. Partially because of the Homestead act of 1862, Minnesota’s population would triple from 440,000 in 1870 to 1.3 million in 1890. European immigrants were encouraged and welcomed to make a new life for themselves on the fertile prairies found in Southwestern Minnesota. Certainly none of this would be considered a winning strategy for hateful people. At this very same time, the KKK, with the support of the Democratic Party, was attempting to enforce Jim Crow laws and end the Reconstruction era.
Continual attempts by today’s radical left to denigrate and destroy America’s history by tearing down our values, institutions, symbols and historical statues, are clearly based in hate and ignorance. These misguided souls must never be allowed to succeed in destroying the history of this state and nation through historical revisionism. As the author of this article says at the end of her interview, “It was part of our past.”
I have lived my entire life in the Lamberton, Walnut Grove and Tracy areas of Southwest Minnesota.
I am proud of all the caring people who live and work in our little piece of prairie paradise. These good and hardworking people have a passion for helping others and a history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. An excellent example of this would be the Hmong. The Hmong are refugees from Laos and America’s long war in Vietnam. The Hmong risked their lives daily supporting America and our military. Since relocating in Southwest Minnesota, they have successfully assimilated and are respected members of several communities like Walnut Grove and Tracy.
Those that understand our history, know that our countries history is not perfect, but America will always be admired as the greatest nation God has ever blessed. Here on the prairie, we strive to be a welcoming people and try to do what is right. Once again, it is part of our past.
— John Coulter is a resident of Tracy