Culture and Society

When Superman did Real Good

Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist. The current manifestation is splintered into several chapters and is classified as a hate group.

Although greatly diminished today, the Ku Klux Klan has had a lot of influence on American history. In the early and mid-20th Century, it was able to control large portions of state governments in the USA.

One of the biggest reasons for a reduction in the KKK’s powers was a man known as Stetson Kennedy. He was (and still is) a white southerner with a family history of Klan membership. Despite this, he did not like the Klan and decided to act against it. Shortly after World War Two, he went undercover to learn Klan secrets. This lead to his book The Klan Unmasked.

However, he did not wait for personal recognition before waging a secret war against the Klan. He gave all his information to the writers of the Superman radio show.

And they used it.

“The most noteworthy Superman radio episodes are described in Weyn Craig Wade’s indispensable history of the Ku Klux Klan, The Fiery Cross. According to Wade, Stetson Kennedy, a reporter for the short-lived lefty newspaper PM, went undercover into the Klan, learning the secret passwords and countersigns used by the Grand Dragon “Doc” Green’s vicious Klavern No. 1 of Atlanta. For sport, Kennedy passed on the info to writers of the Superman radio show about that comic-book character whom Wade calls the ultimate antifacist.”

As Wade relates the incident:

The writers jumped on the idea and Superman began trouncing the Klan over the airways, a battle replete with obviously authentic detail.

During the first broadcast, "Doc" Green received a phone call from the
Atlanta AP bureau chief:

"Superman's really on your trail ... sounds to me like Superman's got 
a pipeline into your klaverns somehow. 
You'd better watch your step."
"I smell a rat," the Dragon said bitterly. 
"Just wait till I get my hands on him!"

"You'd better make it snappy--
Superman just flew over your Imperial Palace to case the joint."

"Nuts," the Doctor said, and hung up.

Green had to change his passwords. But Wade was resilient. He provided the newer ones to the writers. This little game of cat-and-mouse made the passwords and the organizational structure of the Klan commonplace. Every kid on the street started playing ‘Superman vs the KKK’ and none of the kids wanted to be the KKK.
The KKK tried to retaliate by pressuring Pep Cereal–sponsors of theAdventures of Superman–off of grocery shelves in Atlanta. Despite Green’s actions, the sponsors continued to green-light the anti-Klan shows.

The Superman radio show may be seen as trivial today. But it had a big impact on politics in the southern USA in the 1940s. It can be safely said the Stetson Kennedy (and Superman) helped to bring the KKK down a notch.


Actual comic text source:


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