In Laurens, South Carolina, an organization called Echo Project is converting what once was a Ku Klux Klan meeting place into a community center and racial reconciliation museum. Shockingly, the building became home to a White supremacist store in 1996 that sold Klan robes and Confederate memorabilia until as late as 2012—the year it was forced to close.
In an effort to promote healing in a place with such a dark history, Laurens-area resident Regan Freeman and local Black preacher, Rev. David Kennedy, raised $375,000 from thousands of donors to renovate and transform the former home of White supremacy into a shrine of remembrance and reconciliation.
“We don’t want to just have a museum to tell this story, the struggle for justice, and the fight against the Klan, but we also want to detail what happened here to make sure it never happens again,” Freeman told CNN.
The KKK meeting place was owned by John Howard and Michael Burden and became a target for Rev. Kennedy, who tried to get the place legally shut down for years. This caused the preacher to become a target for the KKK, who considered killing him.
But then something unexpected happened: Howard and Burden had a falling out, and Rev. Kennedy gave protection to Burden, providing him and his family with food, shelter, and a place to worship. An unexpected friendship was born, and eventually, Burden handed the deed of the store over to Rev. Kennedy.
“You have to stand up for what is right regardless of what the consequences are, how long it takes, or who stands in your way,” said Kennedy. “We are warriors, full of love and full of forgiveness, but we will always fight, even if it means dying for our communities.”
The new museum won’t completely eradicate the history of the store as it will display artifacts that once belonged to Burden. In addition, the museum will also have a classroom to engage with the community.
Want to read the full story behind the Echo Project? Have a look right here.
Image source: Andrew J. Whitaker