Arts & Culture News

The Coalition That Saved the KKK Building in Fort Worth Explains Plans For the Site

The Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing will be located in a building and used by the Ku Klux Klan and named in honor a Fort Worth man lynched a century ago.
The Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing will be located in a building and used by the Ku Klux Klan and named in honor a Fort Worth man lynched a century ago. Artist rendering courtesy Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing
It's been 101 years since Fred Rouse, a stockyards worker and Fort Worth resident, was found hanging from a tree at the corner of Northeast 12th Street and Samuels Avenue in Fort Worth, his body riddled with bullets and stab wounds.

Rouse was murdered by a mob of white men, mostly stockyard workers who were upset with him for continuing to work while others held out on strike. Two police officers were among the six men indicted for the lynching, but no one was found guilty of the murder.

The life and death of Rouse could have easily slipped through the cracks of Fort Worth’s forgotten history, but his memory will now live forever at the lot of a building where the Ku Klux Klan once stood tall and flourished. The red brick building, with architecture designed to intimidate minorities passing by the structure on their way home, was built in 1924 and called the Ku Klux Klan Klavern No. 101 Auditorium. It will be transformed into the The Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing, meant to be a space of truth, reconciliation and liberation.

The previous building owners had applied for permission to demolish the building, but DNAWORKS, a Fort Wort nonprofit focused on dialogue-based social justice action and community building, stepped in with a plan for the building.

Adam McKinney, co-founder of DNAWORKS alongside Daniel Banks, says, “Daniel and I specifically began to lobby in support of identifying that the demolition was not appropriate, and that what I feel was more appropriate was remembering this history so that we can better understand how we, as a community, can offer creative solutions to the problems we are seeing now in our city and in our country.

"I often ask this question, ’When has forgetting ever worked for us as a society?’ And I think that we step into very dangerous waters when we forget what has happened.”

DNAWORKS formed a coalition called Transform 1012 N. Main Street with other Fort Worth organizations: the Opal Lee Foundation, LGBTQ SAVES, SOL Ballet Folklórico, Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, The Welman Project, Window to Your World and the 1012 Youth Council. They were able to buy and save the property, and put in place a plan for its transformation.

The Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing will provide various services to the community and will house offices for the organizations involved. Ayesha Ganguly, vice chair of the Transform 1012 N. Main Street board, says the building will include an exhibition space, a civil rights museum, historical information about the life and death of Fred Rouse, meeting rooms for smaller nonprofit organizations and community groups, an urban garden and other spaces for artists to create, practice and perform.

“We hope for this space to be very accessible to various community groups to come in there and have their events and programs,” Ganguly says. “Especially those groups that find it difficult to access space because of costs and availability.”

Transform 1012 will focus their efforts on stabilizing the building, launching a capital-raising campaign and engaging in progressive discussions with the Fort Worth community about their needs from the building and how they could get involved. In 2023, the coalition will plan to select an architect to work on the design of the center.

"I think that we step into very dangerous waters when we forget what has happened.” – Adam McKinney, co-founder of DNAWORKS

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“Our interest is not to design something that sits outside the needs of our community’s needs,” McKinney says. “As we centralize community voices in this process, we will really be looking to our community’s voices to share their needs, their knowledge and their thinking.”

During the attempt to demolish the building by the lot's previous owners, Transform 1012 rounded up over 100 letters from community members stating why it was important to save the building and remember the dark history attached to the site. McKinney says Transform 1012 continues to solicit letters locally, at the state level, nationally and internationally to ensure that politicians understand the importance of this project.

Ganguly says Transform 1012 is now a part of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

“It is a group of historical sites, museums and other places of relevance that are critical to commemorating human rights and social justice movements,” she says. “This project Transform 1012 and this site is now a part of coalition internationally.”

Transform 1012 plans to open the doors of The Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing in 2025. McKinney believes that in 1924, there was a ceremony to open the first Klan hall.

“To think about how has our city has changed in 100 years and how we will continue to change for the next 100 years is at the center of our consciousness,” he says.
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Malen “Mars” Blackmon has been a contributor to the Observer since 2019. Entrenched in Southern California’s music and culture at an early age, he wrote and recorded music until he realized he wasn’t cut out for the music industry and turned to journalism. He enjoys driving slowly, going to cannabis conventions and thinking he can make sweatpants look good with any outfit.