A Former KKK Headquaters Is Being Turned Into A Diversity Center
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A Former KKK Headquarters In South Carolina Will Now Become A Diversity Center

This former KKK Storte and headquarters is being turned into a cultural center. Image Youtube

A former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) headquarters in Laurens, South Carolina, a city known for its racist history, is now being turned into a diversity center.

KKK member John Howard Jr. opened the Redneck Shop, a KKK museum, store and meeting place inside of an old movie theater in 1996. Over the years the place became known as the “World’s Only Klan Museum,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. In addition to a KKK headquarters, the place also sold lynching photos, old grenades owned by the groups, pins, T-shirts, hats, and other hateful memorabilia.

In recent years other far-right racist organizations including The Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers have made waves as there were hundreds of members from both organizations at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Despite significant backlash from Laurens’ Black population, the store remained open until 2012. Now, NBC News reports Rev. David Kennedy, a Black man who grew up in Laurens, and Regan Freeman a white man raised in Laurens County who also witnessed the KKK center, have founded the Echo Project, named after the original theater. They plan to transform it into a center for diversity and reconciliation.

“We started protesting heavily, and some of the young people wanted to burn the place down,” Kennedy told NBC News, noting that he prioritized nonviolent tactics to oppose the shop. “So this new place will be a place to encourage people… We want to create an atmosphere where everyday people will feel the freedom to speak.”

Kennedy opposed the store for years with peaceful protests, which led to the KKK targeting him, selling photos of his great-great uncle’s lynching, and consistently threatening his church, the New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church. KKK members threw dead animals on their lawn and attempted to throw handmade explosives into the building.

Kennedy eventually developed a friendship with Michael Burden, who denounced the KKK and sold Kennedy the deed to the theater, but Kennedy could only claim ownership after Burden died. He gained complete control of the theater in 2017, five years after the shop closed.

The space, which has been completely gutted, will feature a diversity center and museum, but the building still needs work, including a large painting of a swastika on one of the building’s walls that must be removed. The two men are aiming to open the cultural center late next year. The men are also enlisting the help of historians to make sense of the items left behind in the shop.