Stetson Kennedy (1916-2011) waged a lifelong war against racial inequality, institutional segregation and social injustice. An audacious, determined, larger-than-life character, he risked his own life for what he believed.
His story made history. And he’s not too modest to tell you why in Klandestine Man.
Born a privileged white southerner, a young Kennedy could not ignore the bigotry and intolerance around him. Cashing in on his patrician roots, he wheedled his way into the inner circle of the Ku Klux Klan and went undercover, learning the identities of their hooded leaders and using an alias to feed exposed information to the producers of the highly popular Superman radio show, who found the Klan an ideal enemy for their hero.
The harrowing story of how he infiltrated and helped to ultimately destroy their sinister empire is revealed in his book, The Klan Unmasked. While a sensation oversees, it took 40 years for the book to be published in the U.S., leaving Kennedy a marked man with a price on his head.
A brighter aspect of Kennedy’s life is the role that music played, from his early days conducting field recordings of Florida folklore with Zora Neale Hurston to his long-lasting friendships with Woody Guthrie and Alan Lomax. The film’s soundtrack will include archival recordings he preserved, tunes written about him, and songs performed by a generation of recording artists inspired by his ‘radical’ ideas of justice and equality.
Prolific author, crusading journalist, tireless activist, early environmentalist and chronic womanizer, Kennedy was a wild man given to embellishment and self-promotion, but his actions, his accomplishments and his unflagging courage made him a legend.
Hailed by the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the famed oral historian Studs Terkel put it best when he said: “With half a dozen Stetson Kennedys, we can transform our society into one of truth, grace and beauty.”
Klandestine Man is his story.
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