UNCG Campus Weekly

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Frierson’s ‘FBI KKK’ at Civil Rights Museum

An FBI special agent in Greensboro, Dargan Frierson was assigned to civil rights cases throughout the 1960s.  He became a confidant of George Dorsett, a chaplain of the United Klans of America and one of the most visible faces of the Klan in North Carolina, and eventually made Dorsett one of the highest ranking members of the Klan to become a paid informant for the FBI.

He also is the father of Michael Frierson, an associate professor of media studies at UNCG, who has chronicled the men’s unlikely friendship in the film “FBI KKK.” The one-hour documentary will be shown and discussed at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, 134 S. Elm St., at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28.

The screening is part of Klansville, USA: Race, Repression and Civil Rights, an educational program free and open to the public. The events, all at the museum, include a panel of scholars 3-5 p.m., a reception 5-6 p.m., and the documentary screening and a discussion 6-8 p.m.

“FBI KKK” tells the story of how two white Southerners came to grips with the changes that the civil rights movement brought to the region in the 1960s. It combines footage of Dorsett’s fiery injunctions against integration with scenes of Dargan Frierson and Dorsett recalling the era nearly four decades later. The film shows the complexities of human relationships in the South as the civil rights movement forced the region to confront the divides of race and class.

“I made this movie not only as way of understanding what my father went through in the 1960s, but to also explore how attitudes about race, particularly for Southerners like my father’s generation, aren’t easy to explain or pigeonhole,” Michael Frierson says.

“Especially for young people today, the Klan seems like something from a bygone era. But it’s important to remember that Klan rallies in North Carolina used to attract thousands of people. Even though North Carolina was regarded as a progressive state, it had the largest active Klan in the world in the 1960s.”

Michael Frierson says that his father, Dargon Frierson, plans to attend Friday’s screening.

The 3 p.m. panel discussion will feature Allen W. Trelease, author of the groundbreaking book “White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction” and professor emeritus of history at UNCG, who will speak about the origins of the KKK in North Carolina.

The other panelists are David Cunningham from Brandeis University and Christian Davenport from the University of Notre Dame. Cunningham, the author of “There’s Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan, and FBI Counterintelligence,” will make a presentation titled “Policing Klansville, USA: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights Era’s Largest KKK.”

Davenport wrote the books “State Repression and the Promise of Democratic Peace” and “Media Bias, Perspective and State Repression: The Black Panther Party.” A peace studies, political science and sociology faculty member, he will describe the impact of informants on social movements.

The Klansville, USA program is sponsored by the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, the UNCG Department of Media Studies, and the UNCG African American Studies Program.

By Dan Nonte