Monday, September 14, 2015

Eduard Lindeman, Julius Foust, and the Ku Klux Klan

On February 16, 1922, President Julius Foust was sent a letter from unidentified members of "Gate City Klan #19" in which they "respectfully refer to your worthy attention on Professor E.C. Lindeman, who is a member of your faculty." Specifically, the Ku Klux Klan members were reporting to Foust that "this party recently gave a social function in his home to negroes in spite of the requests not to do so." The letter continued that "such actions as he has displayed in your institution are not in keeping with our local and southern customs, to say nothing of the fact that a man of such influences is not entirely appropriate in a Christian institution." They asked that Foust immediately fire Lindeman.

Lindeman in 1938,
photo courtesy University of Kentucky Special Collections
Eduard C. Lindeman had been hired by Foust in 1919 as head of the sociology and economics department at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG). Lindeman was a native of St. Clair, Michigan, a graduate of Michigan State University, and a highly regarded scholar of urban sociology and social research methods. Under his direction, the department supplemented its existing courses on rural social problems with courses on social institutions, social and community organization, and social psychology. He was also very active in national and regional professional organizations, serving as secretary and newsletter editor of the American Country Life Association. He was also considered (although not selected) for the position of state commissioner of public welfare in 1920.

But, Lindeman soon faced issues that would impact his position at NCCW. On May 16, 1921, President Foust was sent an anonymous letter from someone who had attended a talk by Lindeman at West Market Street Methodist Church. The letter writer expressed concern that Lindeman "put his interest in the rising generation almost above everything, even his love for Jesus Christ." The writer argued that "the church as we know it is of little consequence to him [Lindeman]." The letter concludes with an assessment that Lindeman's "teaching may work hard instead of good." Foust forwarded the letter to Lindeman to ask for explanation, and Lindeman responded that the letter was "such an unfair estimate of what I said that I do not care to discuss it without knowing the writer."

Less than a year later, Foust received the letter from the local Klan about his "social function." Lindeman wrote a formal statement of the events of the party to clarify the situation for Foust. His wife learned that their cook was planning a birthday party for 19 people in her one-room quarters in the basement, an area ill-equipped for a party of that size. Mrs. Lindeman suggested that she use one of the back rooms in the main portion of the house for the party. The cook then discussed the party with a friend, a cook in another Greensboro home, on the telephone. Lindeman reported that he did not know "what was said in this telephone conversation, but evidently the cook who received the information seemed to regard it as most unusual that Mrs. Lindeman would allow colored people in the up-stairs portion of the house, and she evidently conveyed this information to other white persons." Before Mr. Lindeman arrived home at 5pm that day, Mrs. Lindeman had already received "several telephone calls, a call in person by two men who claimed to be representatives of a daily paper, et cetera."
Letter to Foust from "Gate City Klan #19," February 16, 1922

The cook actually had fewer guests than expected at her party, and they remained in her quarters in the basement. But the rumors persisted and spread across campus and through Greensboro. A reporter called the Lindeman home. Foust called Lindeman into a meeting. And then the letter was received from the local Klan. By this point, Lindeman noted, the rumor "had reached such proportions that it was being said that Mrs. Lindeman had invited the persons who attended the party, that she had provided the refreshments, that the attendants came to the main portion of the house, that she had been warned not to hold the party, and even that she herself had played bridge with the colored persons present."

The rumors didn't stop, and Lindeman felt that Foust and the college were not publicly supporting him in the matter. On April 4, 1922, Lindeman wrote to Foust that "during the past several weeks, I have been definitely considering the problem of severing my connection with the College." He asked that Foust accept his resignation, effective at the end of the academic year.

Foust forwarded Lindeman's resignation to the Board of Directors for consideration at their next meeting. In an April 21, 1922, letter to Judge J.D. Murphy of Asheville, Foust wrote that "Lindeman is an exceedingly brilliant man, but it lacking in good judgement. He could have been a wonderful asset to the college if he had only exercised a reasonable amount of good common sense." He also noted that he had "heard nothing from the KKK and assume that these parties have dropped the matter. I have of course said nothing except when I was forced to do so."

Yet, Lindeman's resignation sparked local media to question whether or not the Klan was influencing administrative decisions at NCCW. Foust blanched at reporters' suggestions that he was allowing "the Ku Klux Klan to dictate the policy of this college." He did, however, place the blame for the incident solely at the feet of Lindeman. In a letter to C.H. Mebane on May 10, 1922, Foust wrote that, after receiving the letter from the KKK, his "position at the time was to treat the whole incident with silent indifference, because any publicity given it is really advertising the Klan." He noted, "I thought everything would pass off quietly, but Lindeman simply cannot refrain from talking."

On May 31, 1922, the Board of Directors issued a statement noting that Lindeman's resignation "was done voluntarily." They also stated "emphatically" that the Ku Klux Klan "had absolutely nothing to do with Professor Lindeman's resignation or its acceptance." The Board reiterated its support of "the position of President Foust, who has repeatedly stated publicly and privately that the authorities of the college had not been and will not be influenced in any manner by the Klan or any such organization."

After leaving NCCW, Lindeman continued his work, first serving as a freelance reporter and then, in 1924, becoming professor of social philosophy at the New York School of Social Work. Lindeman continued his work in areas of adult education, community organization, group work, and labor management problems. He even earned the attention of the McCarthy committee for his "Democratic Christian Socialist social philosophy." He remained at the New York School of Social Work until his retirement in 1950. He died three years later, on April 13, 1953. Reportedly, on his last day alive, he said, "This is a beautiful country. Don’t let McCarthy spoil it."

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