KKK infiltrator, Civil Rights activist Kennedy dies at 94.

Stetson Kennedy as a young man

Stetson Kennedy as a young man

Stetson Kennedy, noted Civil Rights activist perhaps best known for infiltrating and exposing the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia in the 1940s, passed away Saturday, August 27, at the age of 94. Kennedy was a donor to Georgia State University Library’s Southern Labor Archives.

Kennedy’s career as an author began in the 1930s when he worked as both a writer and an editor on the Federal Writers Project guide to Florida. The affiliation made there led to an invitation to write the Florida volume in the American Folkways series, edited by Erskine Caldwell. This volume, Palmetto Country (1942), established Kennedy’s reputation as an authority on the traditions and culture of his home state.

His next book, Southern Exposure (1946), was an expose of the social and political inequities of the South in the mid-20th century. Later, he continued his crusade with I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan (1954) and Jim Crow Guide to the U.S.A. (1959).

As an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 1950, Kennedy ran on a “Total Equality” ticket, and finished last. From 1952 through 1960, Kennedy lived and traveled in Europe, Asia, and Africa. His interest in communism led him behind the Iron Curtain, where he lived and worked for three years, primarily in Hungary. He emerged, disenchanted, as a refugee in 1956.

Upon his return to the United States, Kennedy remained active in the civil rights and peace movements as a writer and lecturer. At various times he has contributed articles to the New York Times, the New York Post, Saturday Review, Nation, New Republic, and other periodicals in the U.S. and abroad. The author of the column “Inside Out” syndicated by the Federated Press from 1937 to 1950, Kennedy also wrote a column “Up Front Down South,” for the Pittsburgh Courier in the 1960s.

More information about Kennedy’s life and work can be found on the Stetson Kennedy Foundation website.

Stetson Kennedy donated papers to several repositories, including:

Stetson Kennedy’s publications (linked titles are owned by Georgia State University Library):

Check out this previous blog post for information about Stetson Kennedy’s last visit to the Georgia State University Library and early filming stages of a documentary about his life and work.

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