Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines 89.9 Chadbourn
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

[Listen] Newly Discovered Images Document KKK Rally In Chapel Hill, 1987

The pictures capture a day that many in Chapel Hill, NC would like to forget. White-hooded figures marching carefree down Franklin Street. It was the day the KKK came to town: June 15, 1987.

About 60 people took part in the march and membership rally. The event started in Durham and then progressed to Chapel Hill. Two thousand people lined the parade route; some to support the participants, others to heckle them. 

That day, a young photographer, Michael Galinsky was there. Galinsky had just graduated from high school the day before. He'd always been a shutterbug, so when he heard that the Klan was coming to town, he headed downtown to document the event.

KKK Parade and Rally Chapel Hill, NC June 15, 1987
Credit Michael Galinsky

These images have been unseen for close to thirty years. Even Michael forgot about them. He moved away, became a successful documentary filmmaker. (One of his films was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.) When he moved home recently to be closer to family, he found the negatives.

"I have no visceral memories from that day. I can’t tell you what it felt like, and I can’t really remember snapping the pictures," he wrote on his blog. "Perhaps this is one of the reasons that I have always been drawn to taking pictures. They stop time in ways that my brain is not so adept at doing."

A friend read the blog post and contacted him to say that at the time, he'd been angry that Michael had chosen to attend the event. The friend asserted that Michael and others were giving the Klan "the attention they desired."

Michael sees it differently. He'd been an avid photographer in high school. He wanted to see the news for himself, he says. He finally had something "real" to photograph.

KKK Parade and Rally Chapel Hill, NC June 15, 1987
Credit Michael Galinsky

When Michael found this picture of a noose hanging from a mirror, he was shocked. But he also felt nervous, scared for his younger self. He recalls taking the photo with care.

"It felt dangerous enough that I stayed back and shot it with my telephoto lens. I felt as if I drew attention to it with my camera, that I would somehow be putting myself in danger," he writes.

KKK Parade and Rally Chapel Hill, NC June 15, 1987
Credit Michael Galinsky
Protesters lined the route

Michael ends his blog post this way:

Having recently moved back to North Carolina from Brooklyn, New York, I have been a bit surprised to see how entrenched social segregation is in Chapel Hill. Our town is not alone. Many studies show that school segregation is increasing at a rapid pace. We can all look back and be proud of what we have achieved in terms of limiting overt discrimination. However, if we look around and see that there is a lot of work to be done to bring true equality and justice to our country, we can’t sit around and expect others to do it for us. Let’s let this day be a reminder that we still have a long way to go.

Read more about the 1987 KKK rally in Chapel Hill in a New York Times article.

Browse more of the photos on Michael's blog post, "The Day The KKK Came To Town."

Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
Related Stories
More Stories