MONMOUTH — Author Mark Leslie plans to talk about the Ku Klux Klan in Maine at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, via Zoom.

When about 15,000 Ku Klux Klan members from around the state gathered outside Waterville in September 1923 for their first annual gathering and lit the forest “ablaze with burning crosses,” the event shook the country, according to a news release from the library. The notion that the secret society could not only exist but thrive in “lily-white” Maine seemed ludicrous to many, but its power reached such heights that it helped elect Gov. Ralph Owen Brewster, the mayors of Auburn, Rockland, Bath, Westbrook and Saco, and numerous other politicians.

Portland-Westbrook, Lewiston-Auburn and Bangor-Brewer were particular hotbeds of KKK activity in the 1920s, Leslie said, adding that the Washington Post reported that an estimated 19% of Maine’s population supported the Klan in 1923.

“While few African-Americans lived here at that time, the KKK’s targets were French-Canadian, Irish and Polish immigrants — largely because they were Roman Catholics — as well as Jews,” Leslie said in the news release.

Leslie’s fictional novel, “The Crossing,” published in 2018, is a sweeping — and ultimately uplifting — look at the KKK’s impact on a small western Maine town in 1923, the library states.

To register, or for more information, email [email protected] or call 207-933-4788.