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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: Immigrants and the Klan

The Wabanaki were hardly the only group suffering white Anglo-Protestant prejudice. Like all of the Northeast states, Maine attracted French-Canadian immigrants to its textile mills and logging camps. Being generally poor and staunchly Catholic, they stirred up the usual xenophobic sentiments and were ruthlessly discriminated against and, especially in the public schools, stripped of language and culture in a cruel assimilation. Only in the very northernmost reaches of Aroostook County, where some of the “Acadians” settled after the British kicked them out of Canada, does the French language and culture survive to any degree. Irish immigrants also arrived in the 19th century, and while language assimilation wasn’t a problem, being poor and Catholic was. By 1900 Maine was 40% Catholic, and this led to a political and social backlash in the form of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was successful in several Maine towns, and the state became infamous for several instances of bigotry.
     For one thing, the Maine Klan had some 20,000 members by the 1920s, more than most Southern states, and had the distinction of holding the Klan’s first daytime march anywhere. They didn’t persecute the blacks (there weren’t enough here to bother with) but fed on hate of French Canadians, who had emigrated in large numbers from Quebec, presumably stealing jobs from white Protestant men.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer
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