The Florida man perhaps best known for infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s died Friday in St. Augustine. Stetson Kennedy, also known as a folklorist and historian, was born in Jacksonville in 1916.
In 1937, Kennedy joined the WPA Florida Writer’s Project, travelling the state with African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, recording oral histories. The discrimination Hurston encountered led to Kennedy’s involvement in civil rights.
In the 1940s, he infiltrated the KKK, gained the leadership’s confidence, then provided information about the group to the Washington Post and Anti-Defamation League. Kennedy’s friend, former state lawmaker and historian Vernon Peeples said Kennedy exposed the Klan for what it really was.
“It took a lot of courage for him to do that but it was something he felt strongly about and I think he did it successfully and his contribution for unveiling the Klan was significant, “ Peeples said.
Kennedy wrote a number of books including Palmetto Country, based on material collected for the WPA. He also spent time living on a bus with Woody Guthrie and kicked up his heels in Paris. Kennedy died at the age of 94.
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 07:52
Stetson Kennedy Dies at 94Written by Valerie Alker