Len Calabrese on the KKK Coming to Cleveland

This clip relates to numerous content standards from the Ohio Department of Education curriculum for Social Studies education, including:

  • American History Content Statement #28 – Following World War II, the United States experienced a struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil rights.
  • Contemporary World Issues Content Statement #5 – Individuals can identify, assess and evaluate world events, engage in deliberative civil debate and influence public processes to address global issues.



Len Calabrese is the head of the Cleveland Clinic’s Section of Clinical Immunology, in addition to being deeply involved with outreach and professional organizations throughout the city of Ohio. His work in pursuing equality for various religious, ethnic and social groups has been extolled by numerous organizations, including the Commission on Catholic Community Action and the Cuyahoga County Public Library. Mr. Calabrese has received countless awards for his work in not only the medical profession, but in greater society as well. In this interview from 2004, he shares the history of the Cleveland City Club in respect to how the Club opened its organization for a public forum when the KKK visited Cleveland, in order to promote peaceful dialogue between opposing parties.

Potential Classroom Applications:

The story shared by Mr. Calabrese touches upon the ongoing battle against American racism and hate, as he describes Cleveland’s response to a visit from the Klu Klux Klan. While this instance occurred in the 1990s, since that time there have been countless events sparked by racism and hatred for various people groups all throughout the country. Educators can use this sound clip to not only discuss the American Civil Rights Movement and the history of race relations in the United States, but can also use it to discuss current events pertaining to race, including the recent Baltimore riots following the death of Freddie Gray. Furthermore, teachers can use this oral history interview as an example of previous debates that peacefully discussed controversial issues. This can be tied to other historical examples and also influence a classroom discussion in which students a given the opportunity to discuss a disputed topic in a calm and amicable manner.

Educators can also connect this clip to historical instances of activism. Throughout United States and world history, there have been numerous memorable instances in which groups have had to come together for the purpose of protesting a topic or event. Tiananmen Square, the march on Washington in 1963, and the Salt March led by Gandhi are all examples that can be shared with students in order to understand the impact of protest upon various governments and events all throughout the world. These examples can also help students understand how to become involved in activist organizations and events in a peaceful and nonviolent manner. Educators can use this clip in connection with other historical instances to help their students understand that sometimes is it necessary and beneficial to advocate a cause in some physical manner, such as picketing, protesting on social media and conducting sit-ins.