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  • Writer's pictureJoey Amato

New Exhibit from the Indiana Historical Society Explores How Notre Dame Students Stood Up to the KKK



The Indiana Historical Society (IHS)’s latest exhibit, RESIST!, opens April 13 at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis. The exhibit will run through Aug. 2, 2025.


At the height of the KKK’s power in 1924, the organization planned a rally in the city of South Bend, home to the University of Notre Dame, where a concentration of Catholic students attended. This moment set up a major flashpoint between the KKK and a religious group they had routinely villainized and persecuted. The event erupted over several days, eventually coming to a halt at the insistence of Father Matthew J. Walsh (University of Notre Dame’s president at the time).


“This is such a powerful story to tell, and an important moment in Indiana’s history,” said Jody Blankenship, IHS President and CEO. “Our goal is to help visitors understand how Hoosiers fought discrimination and hate in Indiana through this pivotal event and the context that surrounded it. Our hope is that visitors come away with not just more knowledge of the past, but also with a better understanding of how these lessons inform our future.”


Guests can immerse themselves in photos, documents, media coverage, interviews and more that provide a wealth of information and context about how Notre Dame students and the South Bend, Ind., community resisted the KKK. The exhibit also features stories of everyday Hoosiers who sought to fight discrimination and raises questions about how to combat hate.


At the center of the exhibit is a multimedia experience that tells the true story of the 1924 KKK gathering in South Bend, Indiana. While guests see a dynamic moving background showing what transpired, the story of the multi-day event is told from the perspective of four different characters.


"As we mark the moment 100 years ago when Notre Dame students joined with members of the local community to defend religious freedom and reject hate, we reflect on the bravery of those men and women who stood tall in defense of the principles upon which both Church and country were founded —namely, respect for the dignity and humanity of all people, regardless of background,” said Pedro Ribeiro, Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at University of Notre Dame. “To that end, we are proud to join with the Indiana Historical Society and The History Museum to mark this pivotal moment in Indiana and Notre Dame history. As former University President Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., wrote, ‘Our words are buttressed by our deeds, and our deeds are inspired by our convictions.’ May the words and deeds of those who rejected hate and bigotry in the past inform and inspire us today."


Following the RESIST! opening at IHS, a sister exhibit will be available May 17 through Oct. 13, 2024, at the main location of St. Joe County Public Library at 304 S. Main St.  in downtown South Bend—which is immediately adjacent to where part of the 1924 event took place. Guests can engage with much of the Indianapolis exhibit’s content and interactives, as well as select collections items from The History Museum in South Bend.


"When the KKK tried to plan a rally to spread hate, Notre Dame students and local citizens resisted. This sister exhibit in South Bend brings an incredibly moving opportunity to learn this story while looking over the place where the bold confrontation happened,” said Brian Harding, The History Museum’s Executive Director. “We are proud to partner with the Indiana Historical Society and the University of Notre Dame to tell this story and honor all who continue to hold fast to the principles of equity.”


RESIST! is presented by the Efroymson Family Fund, the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, and the University of Notre Dame. Additional support is provided by the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation and The Ackerman Foundation.


For more information about these exhibits and other IHS offerings, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.


Photo: ‘Outlaw Klan’ Loses Fight,” published in the South Bend Tribune, March 1926  

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