Workers search for history of Klan robe

By Jamel Major - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Ku Klux Klan robe at the National Civil Rights Museum is going under a microscope.  The robe, spattered with blood and containing a gunshot hole in the left shoulder, is believed to be from the 1950's.

"Possibly this robe was engaged in some type of a conflict with someone and maybe shot at," said Aaron Chism of the ITT Technical Institute. "There were blood stains, so it depicts violence."

Since April the robe has become part of a historical investigation.  It was given to the Civil Rights Museum by an anonymous donor who discovered it in an attic.

"It came via email from unknown individuals," Chism said.

Members from ITT Technical Institute's Criminal Justice program, the TBI, and Memphis Police Crime Scene investigators have joined forces to conduct tests on the robe.  They're hoping to unravel clues as to who may have worn it, or what may have occurred during the Civil Rights Movement.

"It's always possible the individual could be living right now and living in that same area," Chism said. "It is a possibility we could have a cold case."

Monday, a team of teachers from Indiana who were taking part in a tour of the museum got a first hand glimpse at the artifact.

"Normally you don't get a chance to see something that is this personal or controversial," said Kendra Clauser, a teacher with the group.

"Artifacts have life and there's a history," said Marian Carpenter of the National Civil Rights Museum. "We don't just collect things that are static.  I just want to make sure we put a face to it."

Once the evidence is analyzed the robe will remain in the Civil Rights Museum's archives, but will not be on display.

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