The Klu Klux Klan is remembered as one of America's most widely spread and violent hate groups. At its height, the KKK had members all across America and 6,000,000 members. And it was growing still.
It wasn't the police or any other government organization that defeated the KKK, it was brought down from within as its own members left it and no more members came. And how did that happen? Superman.
Everyone knows Superman – “Faster than a speeding bullet”, standing for “truth, justice, and the American Way”. But what isn't so well known, is that Superman played a pivotal role in taking down the Klu Klux Klan in the 1940s.
At the time the Klu Klux Klan was a recognized political and social group with a government charter. After World War II the popularity of the KKK was at new heights of power. Even though the Klan was involved in a number of violent hate crimes designed to reinforce white supremacy, the group had quite a bit of political power and were untouchable by local police forces.
A young reporter/activist by the name of Stetson Kennedy decided to infiltrate the Klan to learn their secrets and get evidence to use against them. Kennedy successfully infiltrated the Klan and began gathering evidence. But when he took his information to the police, they refused to act against the Klan because it had too much support.
And so Stetson Kennedy changed his plans. Since the police refused to act directly against the KKK, he decided to use the Klan's popularity against itself.
And how would he do that? He turned to Superman.
Superman in the 1940s was one of the most popular radio shows in America. Children would gather round the radio eagerly to listen to each of Superman's exploits, and then reenact the adventures with their friends the next day.
After WWII ended and the Nazi's were defeated, the writers of Superman were looking for the next villain. Stetson Kennedy contacted them with his idea: the KKK.
With his insider knowledge of the KKK, Kennedy was able to show off all the secret rituals, titles, and codewords that the KKK used to shroud itself in mystery. Over the course of 16 episodes, children all across America tuned in to hear about Superman fighting against the “Imperial Wizard” (a real KKK title) and his minions.
As soon as the Superman radio drama started local members all across the country poured into their KKK meeting halls furious that their secrets were now out and that their children were playing around their houses shouting out their deepest secrets.
The mystique that the KKK had surrounded itself with was broken. Children all across America were making fun of the Klan, and within 2 weeks Klan recruitment stalled to nothing. All but the most committed Klan members were too embarrassed to keep going to meetings, and in 1947 the state of Georgia rejected their legal charter.
Stetson Kennedy used the power of the youth of the nation through Superman to turn the tide and take down the KKK.
Kennedy himself wrote a book detailing what happened:
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