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THE BATTLE OF MAXTON FIELD

By Angela Wittman

An image of the clash now held by the State Archives - Source: NCDCR

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.” ( Excerpt from Lumbees Rally, Klansmen Scurry, in Robeson County - This Day In NC History)

Dear Friends,

I've been researching my father's family history and while trying to verify our Native American ancestry, I came across this article and video of folk singer Malvina Reynolds telling the story of the North Carolina Lumbee Tribe and their encounter with the KKK in January of 1958:

Lumbees Rally, Klansmen Scurry, in Robeson County

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. [Scroll down to page 26.] 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.”

Source: https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2014/01/18/lumbees-rally-klansmen-scurry-in-robeson-county

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Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for preserving this piece of history and for the the brave men of the Lumbee Tribe who stood their ground and stamped out the KKK rally at the Battle of Maxton Field.  Please honor their memory. I also pray Americans will continue to say "no" to hateful groups like the KKK and others who claim "white" supremacy.

In Lord Jesus Name, amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For a Biblical viewpoint regarding race, please listen to:

Link: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=9317145182


Additional Resources:


Nicholas Graham, "January 1958: The Lumbees face the Klan."

This Month in North Carolina History, January 2005.

Provided by UNC Libraries / North Carolina Collection.

On the night of January 13, 1958, crosses were burned on the front lawns of two Lumbee Indian families in Robeson County, N.C. Nobody had to ask who was responsible. The Ku Klux Klan had risen again in North Carolina, its ranks swelling after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education calling for the desegregation of public schools. While the Court instructed schools to proceed with “all deliberate speed,” the Klan fought — often in the form of anonymous nighttime attacks — to slow the process of integration.

Robeson County in the 1950s had a uniquely tri-racial population. There were about 40,000 whites, 30,000 Native Americans, and 25,000 African Americans, each group with its own separate school system. Although the Klan had typically targeted African Americans, in early 1958 a group led by James W. “Catfish” Cole of South Carolina began harassing the Lumbees. One of the crosses burned on the night of January 13 was on the lawn of a Lumbee family that had recently moved into a predominantly white neighborhood, while the other was intended to intimidate a Lumbee woman who was said to have been dating a white man. Not content to leave it at this, the Klan planned a rally in Robeson County to be held just a few days later.

The rally was scheduled for the night of January 18, 1958, in a field near Maxton, N.C. The stated purpose of the gathering was, in the words of Catfish Cole, “to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing.” The time and location of the rally was not kept secret, and word spread quickly among the local Lumbee population.

Reports vary about the number of people gathered on that cold night, but there were thought to have been around a hundred Klan members. They brought a large banner emblazoned with “KKK” and a portable generator, which powered a public address system and a single bare light bulb. When the meeting began, the arc of the dim light didn’t spread far enough for the Klansmen to see that they were surrounded by as many as a thousand Lumbees. Several young tribe members, some of whom were armed, closed on the Klan meeting and tried to take down the light bulb. The groups fought, and a shotgun blast shattered the light. In the sudden darkness, the Lumbees descended upon the field, yelling and firing guns into the air, scattering the overmatched Klansmen. Some left under police protection while others, including Catfish Cole, simply took to the woods.

News photographers already on the scene captured the celebration. Images of triumphant Lumbees holding up the abandoned KKK banner were published in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Simeon Oxendine, a popular World War II veteran, appeared in Life magazine, smiling and wrapped in the banner. The rout of the Klan galvanized the Lumbee community. The Ku Klux Klan was active in North Carolina into the 1960s, but they never held another public meeting in Robeson County.

Link: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-postwar/6068

The Battle of Hayes Pond was an armed confrontation between the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Lumbee Indians at a Klan rally near Maxton, North Carolina, on the night of January 18, 1958. Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole was the organizer of the Klan rally. Sanford Locklear, Simeon Oxendine and Neill Lowery were leaders of the Lumbee who attacked the Klansmen and successfully disrupted the rally.


The headlights shone, the Klansmen stood
In circle brave and fine,
When suddenly a whoop was heard
That curdled every spine,
An Indian youth with steely eyes,
Sauntered in alone,
He calmly drew his shootin' iron
And conked the microphone.

Another shot, the lights went out,
There was a moment's hush,
Then a hundred thousand Lumbee boys
Came screaming from the brush.
Well, maybe not a million quite,
But surely more than four,
And the Klansmen shook from head to foot
And headed for the door.

The Lumbee Indians whooped and howled
In the ancient Lumbee way,
And the Klansmen melted off the ground
Like snow on a sunny day.
Our histories will long record
That perilous advance,
When many a Klansman left the field
With buckshot in his pants.

Link: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/MALVINA/mr011.htm

During the 1950s, the Croatan Indians (as they were then called) made nationwide news when they came into conflict with the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization headed by Klan Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole. Cole began a campaign of harassment against the Lumbee, claiming they were "mongrels and half-breeds" whose "race mixing" threatened to upset the established order of segregated Jim Crow South.[citation needed] After giving a series of speeches denouncing the "loose morals" of Lumbee women, Cole burned a cross in the front yard of a Lumbee woman in St. Pauls, North Carolina, as a "warning" against "race mixing".[citation needed] Emboldened, Cole called for a Klan rally on January 18, 1958, near the town of Maxton. The Lumbee, led by recent veterans of the Second World War, decided to disrupt the rally.

The "Battle of Hayes Pond", also known as "the Klan Rout", made national news.[33] Cole had predicted more than 5,000 Klansmen would show up for the rally, but fewer than 100 and possibly as few as three dozen attended. Approximately 500 Lumbee, armed with guns and sticks, gathered in a nearby swamp, and when they realized they possessed an overwhelming numerical advantage, attacked the Klansmen. The Lumbee encircled the Klansmen, opening fire and wounding four Klansmen in the first volley, none seriously. The remaining Klansmen panicked and fled. Cole was found in the swamps, arrested and tried for inciting a riot. The Lumbee celebrated the victory by burning Klan regalia and dancing around the open flames.[33]

The Battle of Hayes Pond, which marked the end of Klan activity in Robeson County, is celebrated as a Lumbee holiday.


Official logo of the Lumbee Tribe of NC - Source: Wikipedia

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