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Charlotte in 1957 hosted John Kasper - a man of hate - and MLK, a man of peace

Klansmen picket the Visulite Theater on Elizabeth Avenue.
Klansmen picket the Visulite Theater on Elizabeth Avenue.
Dan L. Morrill, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

In 1957, Charlotte was host to visits by two men who personified the concept of dualism. We have heard of the yin and yang. In physics, we see particles with positive and negative charges. In the Zoroastrian religion, there is the all-good, all-wise, Creator Ahura Mazda who is opposed by the essence of evil and chaos, Angra Mainyu or Ahriman.

Where there is light, there is the darkness that proceeds and follows it. Where there is love, hate exists to define just what love is and make it so precious. Where there is peace, there is discord, strife, enmity, conflict. and struggle.

In the struggle for civil rights in this country, we had two men who were poles in opposition: Martin Luther King Jr. and John Kasper. One man a young, Baptist preacher thrust in to the role of leader in the non-violent fight for racial equality for African Americans. The other a Columbia University educated, fanatical, right-wing, vitriolic, and violent anti-segregationist.

One man organized and led non-violent marches, sit-ins, rallies, and boycotts across the country. The other traveled across the south, organizing protests against court desegregation orders, inciting riots, and possibly the bombing of a school and several synagogues.

One man founded the Southern Christian Leadership, whose purpose was to:

“...harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform.”

The other man sought recruits for the White Citizens' Council (WCC) , a white supremacist organization whose goal was to fight racial integration and protect "European-American heritage."

John Casper came to Charlotte September 1st, 1957 intending to sign up members for the

White Citizens' Council and speak against the integration of Charlotte public schools. He led a rally on the steps of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse before a crowd of 300 whites. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission ( website article about this day, Kasper told the crown to rise up against the school board.

"We want a heart attack, we want nervous breakdowns, we want suicides, we want flight from persecution," Kasper declared.

Another source reports:

He distributed leaflets featuring a photograph of a black man kissing a white woman and urged his white followers to "load your shotguns."

Kasper called for students to strike and picket the schools. He tried and failed to start a Mecklenburg White Citizens' Council. Though there were other anti-segregation groups in Charlotte at the time -- including Kenneth Whitsett’s Patriots of North Carolina -- Kasper just did not fit in with the Charlotte way of doing things.

Three days later, 15-year old Dorothy Counts was to enroll at Harry Harding High School. Three other black students were to enroll in other schools across the system. How much worse could the racial climate have been had Kasper succeeded.

We remember the Martin Luther King Jr., a preacher, father, civil rights activist, orator, Nobel Prize laureate, scholar, and man of peace. But such a man may not have come upon the scene at the time he was most needed had there not been his pole, his adversary, his Ahriman: John Kasper.


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