How Superman Took on the KKK

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Penn Jillette was talking about this on his radio show last week.

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 because of the show. The Klan chief tried to retaliate by pressuring Pep Cereal–sponsors of the Adventures of Superman–off of grocery shelves in Atlanta. Despite Green’s actions, the sponsors continued to green-light the anti-Klan shows.

3 Comments

  1. Read about this only yesterday in Steven D. Levitt’s “Freakonomics”. Really interesting book about what incentivizes people among other things, I thoroughly recommend it. The Superman thing was Wade’s best effort after he found going after the Klan through legal and peer pressure failed.

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