By Ilena Peng
Two crosses burned in Robeson County, North Carolina, on January 13, 1958. One was outside the home of a Native American woman who was dating a white man, the other outside the home of a Native family who had moved into one of Lumberton’s all-white neighborhoods. The blazing signs were clearly the work of Klansmen — not that the Ku Klux Klan’s presence in the county had ever been subtle. Caravans of Klansmen had been driving around the segregated county (where the local population included blacks, whites and Native Americans) every Saturday night, terrorizing the Lumbee Indians.
“They wanted you to see them. They wanted you to be afraid of them,” Lillie McKoy, who grew up watching the KKK drive by and later became the mayor of Maxton, a small town in Robeson County, told The Fayetteville Observer in 2008.
The county had been split in three since the 1880s, after the Lumbees resisted North Carolina’s post–Civil War efforts to segregate its citizens into two racial categories. The county had three sets of buses, three separate water fountains and three school systems.