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Contributing to the Database Changed a Student’s Perspective

From his research for the LSL database, the author, a student at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, discovered that a women’s club, known for one year as the K.K.K, and afterward as the K.K.K.K, showed up proudly in the College yearbook from 1924 to 1929, right next to the Chemistry Club. See this item in the LSLdb here.

By Ian Domeika, Hendrix College Class of 2025 

When signing up for classes the summer heading into my junior year, seeing a course focused on the history of Hendrix College stuck out to me. “Race, History, Hendrix” dealt with my college’s background, specifically pertaining to Lost Cause ideologies that many previous professors taught.  I am a history minor, but mostly for my future law school aspirations, and less for my true interest in history. So, I signed up, knowing this would fill one of my credits. I had no idea what I was in for. 

This class was unique to any learning experience I was accustomed to. Twelve students, with varying academic interests and backgrounds, sat around a conference room table, discussing and debating readings authored by scholars from our school’s past. No sooner than a few weeks in, my perspective had shifted. I was fully invested, reading works from many of Hendrix’s early twentieth-century “legends” like Thomas Staples (1879-1957), a history professor who coached baseball and football, and John Hugh Reynolds (1869-1954), former president of the school. Their work, spewing racist and Lost Cause beliefs while our school honored them with buildings and prizes, was eye-opening. For weeks, we read both pro- and anti-Reconstruction viewpoints from various Arkansas historians, giving context to our school’s political environment at the time. 

The final initiative of the course was for each of us to individually contribute to the LSLdb, conducting research through the Hendrix College archives and other outside sources. We reviewed the database as a class, and then were each allocated an entry. I was assigned to research the Ku Klux Klan’s presence on campus, through the lens of a concerning 1923 image in our school’s yearbook, The Troubadour, which is published under the same name to this day. 

Attempting to find information regarding a secret organization is tough enough as it is, and a secret organization 100 years ago, was no walk in the park. My research began in the college archives, where I touched base with the original 1923 yearbook and the infamous picture. While it was striking, it was not new information; the photo has been published in articles pertaining to the Klan’s presence in Arkansas. What was more striking was the odd mentions the yearbook has throughout the 1920s about the Klan. From 1924 to 1929, a women’s club, known for one year as the K.K.K, and then in the following years as the K.K.K.K, showed up proudly in the yearbook, right next to the Chemistry Club.

Once I had consulted all the sources in the archives, I resorted to the web. I found many articles detailing the Klan’s activity in surrounding areas at the time. It led me to reach out to a professor from a neighboring college, who had written on the topic of the Klan in Arkansas at the same time. He pointed me towards his book on the matter and other similar works. Unfortunately, not much new information popped up regarding the Klan’s presence on the Hendrix campus, but my outside research did provide a steady timeline as to their involvement in the county at the time, and Hendrix’s chapter seems to fit right into the larger picture.

Not only was this class a unique experience for me to partake in hands on research, but it also is having a greater impact on our school as a whole. To contribute to the database, the 12 students in our class actively researched different elements of Hendrix, calling into question many of the buildings and people we recognize as icons here on campus. We hope that if nothing else, our work will start a conversation at Hendrix, to review whom we honor and whom we don’t, and shed light on the whole picture of our school, not just picking the highlights.

Editor’s note: Meredith College in North Carolina also had a women’s club named for the Klan. See that item in the LSLdb here.

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