This Pennsylvania City Has Been Named the Most Racist City in the State

Pennsylvania boasts a rich history and diverse culture, but it also grapples with a darker side of racism and discrimination. A recent study by RoadSnacks, an analytical website, revealed that the most racist city in Pennsylvania is Refton, a small Lancaster County town with a mere 164 residents.

Study Methodology

To conduct this study, data from Virginia Commonwealth University was utilized, mapping the locations of Klaverns, local Ku Klux Klan chapters, from 1915 to 1940. The study then calculated a ratio of historic KKK presence per capita by dividing the number of Klaverns by the current population of each city.

The study identified a historical total of 144 Klaverns in Pennsylvania across 101 locations. Philadelphia led with 18, followed by Pittsburgh with 10. Adjusting for population size, Refton held the highest ratio of Klaverns per capita at 0.0061, equating to one Klavern for every 164 people.

The study also ranked the top 10 most racist cities in Pennsylvania based on the same criteria:

  • Refton
  • Lawrence
  • Commodore
  • Franklin
  • Elderton
  • Rowes Run
  • Herndon
  • Weissport
  • Vanderbilt
  • Dayton

History of Racism in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s history is complex, with roots of racism dating back to the colonial era when slavery was legal. The state played a pivotal role in both the abolitionist movement and the Civil War. However, incidents of racial violence and oppression, such as the 1842 Philadelphia race riot and the 1964 Chester riot, have stained its history. White supremacist groups, including the KKK, Aryan Nations, and American Nazi Party, have also left their mark.

According to a 2013 study, Pennsylvania ranked 12th nationally in racist Google searches, with central and western areas exhibiting the highest frequencies.

Current State of Racism in Pennsylvania

Racism persists in Pennsylvania, affecting education, health, housing, employment, criminal justice, and politics. The 2019 State of Black America report ranked Pennsylvania 40th out of 50 states for racial equality. Hate crimes have risen, with 345 reported in 2018, a 48% increase from 2017, primarily targeting individuals based on race, ethnicity, or ancestry.

Protests against racism and police brutality surged after incidents like the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Pennsylvania cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York, witnessed significant demonstrations demanding justice and reform.

Addressing Racism in Pennsylvania: Challenges and Opportunities

Addressing racism in Pennsylvania requires collaboration among government officials, community leaders, activists, educators, media, businesses, and citizens. Challenges include the lack of accurate data, persistence of racial stereotypes, resistance to anti-racism efforts, and systemic barriers.

Opportunities for change include the state’s increasing diversity, advocacy movements like Black Lives Matter, and policies addressing racial disparities. Education and training initiatives also aim to promote cultural competence and sensitivity.


While Refton earned the label of the most racist city in Pennsylvania, racism is a statewide and nationwide issue affecting people of all backgrounds. Recognizing, confronting, and combating racism is a shared responsibility, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society for everyone.

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