Saturday, December 31, 2005

Stetson Kennedy and Superman Beat the KKK

Superman Versus the KKK. Although greatly diminished today, the Ku Klux Klan has had a lot of influence on American history. In the early and mid-20th Century, it was able to control large portions of state governments in the USA.

That power ebbed. And one of the biggest reasons was a man known as Stetson Kennedy. He was (and still is) a white southerner with a family history of Klan membership. Despite this, he did not like the Klan and decided to act against it. Shortly after World War Two, he went undercover to learn Klan secrets. This lead to his book The Klan Unmasked.

However, he did not wait until he published his book to leak Klan knowledge. He gave it to the writers of the Superman radio show. And they used it...

The blogged article notes, "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."

The Superman radio shows did major damage to the Klan. They revealed Klan passwords and put the Klan on the same moral ground as the Nazis and Lex Luthor. Klan members were shocked to hear their children playing with Klan knowledge. And the Klan was not amused.

The article continues, "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."

The Superman radio show may be seen as trivial today. But it had a big impact on politics in the southern USA in the 1940s. It can be safely said the Stetson Kennedy (and Superman) helped to bring the KKK down a notch.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Developing Political Tolerance

Developing Political Tolerance. This essay is an ERIC Digest from 2002. It looks at how students can be taught to tolerate and accept political views that differ from their own.

As the article says, "Political tolerance is the willingness to extend basic rights and civil liberties to persons and groups whose viewpoints differ from one's own. It is a central tenet of a liberal democracy."

This article makes strong connections to American history. The text notes, "The protection of individuals' rights, including those of individuals we dislike or with whom we strongly disagree, has often been a struggle in U.S. society. Consider the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the interrogation of suspected American Communists in the 1950s, or the FBI files on Vietnam War protesters. In each case, Americans tended to support the abnegation of rights for unpopular minorities."

Political tolerance is a good thing most of the time. But is it always the best? If you believed slavery was wrong in the 19th Century, would have being an abolitionist been evidence of political intolerance for the views of southerners? Would being opposed to abortion in the 21st Century be seen as political intolerance today?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Two Year Anniversary

I note that December 31st is the two year anniversary of the start of this blog. In the last two years, I have changed my blogging style some (more frequent posts and more commentary on sites) but I have kept my basic premise the same. I just want to highlight history on the Web. And I try to hit different time periods and different regions to keep this blog interesting to as many history people as possible.

I hope to be around for years to come. My thanks to the many people who have linked to this blog or posted comments on my writing. I appreciate it and your support has kept me blogging.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Encyclopaedia Britannica's Guide to Normandy 1944

Encyclopaedia Britannica's Guide to Normandy 1944 - The story of the Normandy Invasion through the spoken recollections of veterans who fought it, the newsreels that recorded the events, and written collections of historians who studied the campaign.

It appears that all of the linked articles are available free online. (I checked a few.) This is in contrast to most of the Encyclopedia Britannica online which only gives a small preview of each article and demands payment for full access.

I guess if there were no quality free online encyclopedias, this would make sense. But, have they ever heard of Wikipedia? Yeah, it has problems (Vandals, Administrators, and Sockpuppets, Oh My! An Ethnographic Study of Wikipedia’s Handling of Problem Behavior) but Nature also just found Wikipedia as accurate as the Britannica (Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica).

Perhaps the Britannica editors should read The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. On page 81, the author gives reason #4 the world is flat and this is Open-Sourcing and Self-Organizing Collaborative Communities. Wikipedia is featured prominently. Sure, the Britannica may be a bit better than Wikipedia but guess which most Web users will pick most of the time, the free one that is right most of the time versus the pay-per-view version which may only be slightly better? The Britannica had better find a new economic model...

Regardless, this is a good page to find information on the D-Day Invasion. I found it very informative and easy to read.

From the site:

On June 6, 1944, a date known ever since as D-Day, a mighty armada crossed a narrow strip of sea from England to Normandy, France, and cracked the Nazi grip on western Europe.

Encyclopædia Britannica tells the story of the Normandy Invasion through the spoken recollections of veterans who fought it, the newsreels that brought the news home, and the written words of historians who have dedicated years to studying the great campaign.