By Evette D. Champion
Young or old, everyone knows who Superman is and that he battles villains who try to do any wrong-doing in the city of Metropolis. Fans of the superhero enjoy getting lost in the fantasy of a man stronger than steel, faster than a speeding bullet and who can fly. But, out of all that fantasy that surrounds the caped crusader, what would you say if we told you that not all his nemesis’ are fictional?
There once was a period when the Man of Steel battled a problem that was very real in America’s history: the Ku Klux Klan.
The real life story begins with a young man from Florida named Stetson Kennedy. The folklorist and activist took notice that the KKK began picking up momentum again after V-J Day. The members of the Klan gathered at Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia and burned a cross that stood 300 feet high. One of the members described the gesture as a way to “to let the n*ggers know the war is over and that the Klan is back on the market.”
Young Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedy family) was determined to infiltrate the supremacy group and learn all of their secrets. That determination paid off because he learned secrets such as when a member was traveling across the country and they wanted to find other Klansmen, he would ask for “Mr. Ayak,” which stood for “Are You A Klansmen?” Then they would wait for the other person to respond correctly with “Yes, and I also know a Mr. Akai,” which meant “A Klansmen Am I.”
Kennedy took this information to the local law enforcement but it did not get the attention it deserved. During this time, the Klan had become so powerful that the police were afraid to take action against them. This is when Kennedy needed to enlist the help of something more powerful than the police.
During the 1940’s when this story takes place, the story of Superman was a huge hit on the radio—people all over the country were glued to their radio sets to follow the heroics of Superman. So Kennedy decided to approach the writers of the radio show to see if they could help out. Thus began the epic “Superman vs. the Klan” plot.
Previously, Superman had battled against Hitler and Hirohito, and when the war ended, the Klan plotline fit in perfectly. June 10th, 1946 was when the plot first aired on the radio with the title “Clan of the Fiery Cross.”
During the story line, which took two weeks to tell the whole plot, many of the Klan’s secrets were exposed and recruitment efforts began to dwindle.
Because of Kennedy’s tenacity and courage, he was dubbed as the “greatest single contributor to the weakening of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Well, Kennedy and Superman, of course.