The State of Maine and the Ku Klux Klan. It’s an improbable antithesis, but not only did the KKK take root in Maine in the 1920s, the group’s first daylight parade in America was held Sept. 3, 1923, in nearby Milo. The parade made newspaper headlines across the country, heralding the possibility of “klaverns” across the Northern states.

This astonishing time in Maine’s history, left out of textbooks for nearly 100 years, will be explored by author Mark Alan Leslie as part of Thompson Free Library’s Bicentennial Speaker Series at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 18.

“Milo, Dexter, Newport and Bangor-Brewer were hotbeds of KKK activity in the 1920s,” Leslie said. “I’m certain that when the Klan held its first state conclave in a forest outside Waterville in 1923, some from this area were among the 15,000 who attended.”

Indeed, the Klan reached such heights that it helped elect Governor Ralph Owen Brewster, the mayors of Rockland, Saco, Bath and Westbrook, the Speaker of the Maine House and a number of other political and law-enforcement leaders.

An estimated 19 percent of the state’s population supported the Southern-based secret society, Leslie said, adding, “While few African-Americans lived in Maine at that time, the KKK’s targets were French-Canadians, Catholics and Irish and Polish immigrants as well as Jews.

In his talk “Maine Burning: The Ku Klux Klan Invasion” Leslie will tell the tale of the extraordinary rise and fall of this organization which, now and again, still makes headlines in Maine today.

This event is free and open to the public. To participate, join the Zoom meeting online at: https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/84237161160 (Meeting ID: 842 3716 1160) You can also dial in by phone at: 1-646-876-9923.

The Crossing by Mark Alan Leslie

The Monmouth resident’s fictional novel, The Crossing, is a sweeping — and ultimately uplifting — look at the KKK’s impact on a small western Maine town in 1923.

The AFA Journal called Leslie “a seasoned wordsmith…in the class of John Grisham” and the Midwest Book Review termed his insights into world politics and culture “staggering and frighteningly realistic.”

Leslie earned Featured Book status from Publishers Weekly for his 2015 book, True North: Tice’s Story, a novel about the Underground Railroad in Maine.

Thompson Free Library will host Susan Pinette, Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures and Director of Franco American Programs at the University of Maine, live via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 28.

Dr. Pinette’s talk “The French People of Maine: Who are they and how did they get here?” will provide an overview of Franco American communities in Maine. She will present the history of their migrations to New England, their settlement, and discuss some of the current issues they face.

This event is free and open to the public. To participate, join the Zoom meeting online at: https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/86272308023 (Meeting ID: 862 7230 8023) You can also dial in by phone at: 1-646-876-9923.

Susan Pinette

Susan Pinette was born and raised in Maine. She received her doctorate in French at the University of California, Irvine. Her research examines contemporary Franco American literature, where she shows its significance to the broader arenas of North American Francophone communities and American studies.

Thompson Free Library’s Maine Bicentennial Speaker Series is supported by a Maine Bicentennial Community Grant and will explore topics and perspectives sometimes overlooked in traditional narratives of our state’s history.

Thompson Free Library will host Mary Freeman, assistant professor of history at the University of Maine, live via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 7 as the first speaker in a series celebrating Maine’s Bicentennial.

Dr. Freeman’s talk, titled “The Politics of Slavery in the Era of Maine Statehood,” will explore how the issue of slavery influenced Maine’s development and entrance into the U.S. as an independent state. It will also focus on African American political activism in Maine surrounding the issues of abolishing slavery and fighting for equal rights.

This event is free and open to the public.

To participate, join the Zoom meeting online at: https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/87853753601 (Meeting ID: 878 5375 3601)

You can also dial in by phone at: 1 646-876-9923

Dr. Mary Freeman

Dr. Freeman studies the history of slavery and abolition in the United States, with a focus on Maine and New England. She received her PhD from Columbia University. Her current book project examines letter writing in the nineteenth-century antislavery movement, and she is also working on an article about abolition and African American politics in Maine.

Thompson Free Library’s Maine Bicentennial Speaker Series is supported by a Maine Bicentennial Community Grant and will explore topics and perspectives sometimes overlooked in traditional narratives of our state’s history.

TFL Programs


101 Series | Join us on Tuesday, June 16 at 1:30 pm for Soap Making 101. Brooke Isham of Lomah Farmstead in Sangerville will teach us how to make beautiful, cold processed natural soap from ingredients that can be found locally, using simple equipment.

Bicentennial Speaker Series | Thursday, June 18 at 6 pm author Mark Alan Leslie will present “Maine Burning: The Ku Klux Klan Invasion” live via Zoom.

Daily Poems | Throughout the month of April (National Poetry Month), Tom has been sharing a poem a day on the library’s Instagram account.

Philosophy Circle | TFL’s Philosophy Circle meets every other week to explore philosophical topics and questions. Next meeting: Friday, June 5 at 3:30 pm via Zoom.

Read Alouds & More with Ms. Michelle | For read alouds, book talks, and craft projects with Ms. Michelle, visit the library’s new YouTube Channel.

Reading Group | TFL’s Reading Group meets on the second Thursday of every month. On June 11 we will discuss “Campfires Rekindled.” Please contact the library to borrow a copy of the book.

Story Slam | Join the Voices from HOME Oral History Project for our next live storytelling event on Friday, June 26 at 6 pm.

Story Times | Ms. Michelle shares story times every Thursday on the library’s Facebook page.

Tom’s Circulation Desk | Interested in connecting with the library through a digital chat with Tom? Visit Tom’s (Virtual) Circulation Desk from 1-2pm on Friday afternoons!

Other Free Programs


Center Theatre | Visit the Center Theatre’s website for ways to participate in virtual cinema, virtual theatre, and other online events.

Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine | Explore wildlife, makerspace, music, and theatre activities with the “At Home Together” series of online educational programming.

Cosmic Kids! Yoga | Stream yoga, mindfulness, and relaxation videos designed specially for kids aged 3+.

Maine Public | Maine Public is offering live virtual concerts with their Tiny Screen Concerts series.

Maine State Library | Visit the Statewide Library Virtual Events calendar to see what’s happening across the state. | Participate in fun activities with Science Online every Wednesday at 3:30 pm via the Maine State Library’s Facebook page.

NPR | NPR’s list of live virtual concerts offers links to stream performances from around the world.

Patten Free Library | PFL has created a Shakespeare-Themed Escape Room and Harry Potter-Themed Escape Room for you to enjoy! | History Room Live offers discussions on local history and genealogy. (Past sessions are also available to view.)

Thomas Memorial Library | TML’s Community Wellness Toolkit offers mindfulness programs and discussions facilitated by community professionals.

More coming soon… Stay tuned for more virtual program updates!

Help us document life in Central Maine during the COVID-19 pandemic by submitting your stories, images, oral history interviews, and videos to Heart of Maine Community Stories (a collaboration with Hartland Public Library, Newport Cultural Center, and Pittsfield Public Library).

We welcome anything created or collected by you including audio diaries, journal entries, letters, photographs, drawings, personal recollections, and interviews with friends and family.

We also invite you to share stories about living through other times of emergency and upheaval. Did you experience the April Fools’ Day Flood of 1987 or other historic disasters? What personal memories or stories of community resilience do you have of those times? What do you want to share with future generations about past events or the current pandemic?

Click here to submit a text-based story or to upload an image, oral history interview, video, or audio recording.

For questions to help guide your self-reflection or interview, please see Suggested Questions. For more information about conducting an oral history interview, see Tips for Interviewers.

Interested in sharing your story live? Join us for a virtual story slam on the theme “Together” on Friday, May 22 at 6 pm.