Indiana — Star Wars actor Adam Driver is bringing his northern Indiana hometown's hate group history to light after saying Ku Klux Klan rallies were frequent during his childhood and that some of his neighbors were Klan members.
The Mishawaka native made the comments during a USA Today interview about his role in the new movie BlacKkKlansman, the Indianapolis Star reported.
"If anything, I was more aware of it as a kid growing up in Indiana, because there were always Klan rallies, like, every summer," Driver, 34, told USA Today. "There were people in the Klan who were in our neighbourhood."
BlacKkKlansman directed by Spike Lee tells the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Stallworth teams up with seasoned colleague Flip Zimmerman (Driver), to take down the KKK.
THE KKK HAD A TIGHT GRIP IN INDIANA
Indiana University professor emeritus James Madison said he doesn't doubt that Driver was exposed to the KKK but doubts he saw many, if any, rallies.
"Most of the memories of this sort tend to be grossly exaggerated, but at the same time, it's quite possible that he saw men and women in robes and sheets," said Madison, who is writing a book about the Indiana Klan. "It's quite possible that he saw a burning cross. But not a lot of it."
Driver's representatives didn't return the newspaper's messages for comment.
There was a KKK rally in nearby South Bend around 2001, when Driver was a teenager, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Indiana Grand Dragon Richard Loy was also known at the time to host rallies on his Osceola farm about 10 minutes east of Mishawaka, according to the Washington Post.
The KKK had a tight grip on Indiana in the 1920s. Historians estimate that nearly a third of Indiana's native-born white Protestant men were members at one point, Madison said.
More than 30 hate groups operate in the state today, with three them affiliated with the Klan, according to the SPLC. The KKK has a waning presence in Indiana, but there are many other groups gaining support in its place, said Heidi Beirich, director of the center's Intelligence Project.
"There's research that's been done, that a history of hate groups — going all the way back to the '20s Klan — also lasts through history, and you see more hate groups in places like that," she said. "History plays a role here."
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR THE MOVIE HERE:
BlacKkKlansman opens in SA cinemas on Friday, 7 September.