Lumbees Rally, Klansmen Scurry, in Robeson County

An image of the clash now held by the State Archives

An image of the clash now held by the State Archives

On January 18, 1958, the Ku Klux Klan rallied in a field outside of Maxton in Robeson County to “put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.”

A generator powered the public address system and the single light bulb that illuminated the speaker’s immediate area. With only the dim light, the Klansmen, numbering less than 100, could not see the hundreds of Lumbee, some armed, surrounding them. The two groups clashed and struggled over the light bulb until a gunshot shattered it. More gunshots rang out in the darkness as the Lumbee routed the Klansmen from the field, ending the night’s event. Police arrested the Klan leader, James “Catfish” Cole, for inciting a riot. He was convicted and served a year in prison.

The incident garnered national attention in contemporary news outlets, including a three-page spread in Life magazine. Several images captured the unfolding events and the aftermath, including a triumphant Simeon Oxendine wrapped in the captured KKK banner. Oxendine was a prominent Lumbee community leader and a World War II veteran who flew more than 30 bombing missions.

In 1967, folklorist Malvina Reynolds paid homage to the confrontation in her song “Battle of Maxton Field.”

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