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University of Alabama Press
The Klan Unmasked: With a New Introduction by David Pilgrim and a New Author's Note / Edition 2

The Klan Unmasked: With a New Introduction by David Pilgrim and a New Author's Note / Edition 2

by Stetson Kennedy, David Pilgrim
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Stetson Kennedy’s infiltration and exposure of the KKK.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817356743
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 03/15/2011
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 302
Sales rank: 587,181
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author


Stetson Kennedy is an award-winning author and human rights activist. Kennedy is also known as a pioneering folklorist, a labor activist, and environmentalist. He is the author of the books: Palmetto Country, Southern Exposure, The Jim Crow Guide, The Klan Unmasked, and After Appomattox.

Read an Excerpt

The Klan Unmasked

By Stetson Kennedy

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1990 Stetson Kennedy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8575-0



I awoke with a start, my hand already instinctively reaching for the .32 automatic I kept under my pillow. No sooner did I have the comforting cool steel in hand than I became aware that the ringing of a bell had awakened me. It was dark, and my first thought was that the alarm clock must have gone off ahead of schedule. Cursing under my breath, I flicked on the bed light. It was 2 a.m. Then I realized that the bell had stopped ringing, and I knew it was the telephone.

Trouble, I thought. But I knew that failure to answer it might mean worse trouble, so I stumbled out into the hall and picked up the receiver.

"Who is this?" asked the caller. I recognized the voice—rather like a cement-mixer running at half speed—as that of Cliff Carter, "Chief Ass-Tearer" of the hooded Ku Klux Klan's Klavalier Klub murder squad.

"John Perkins," I replied, giving him the alias under which I had lived ever since I joined the Klan as a secret undercover agent to gather evidence against it.

"What's your number, Perkins?" asked the voice bluntly.

"Seventy-three," I replied, this being the number on my Klavalier Klub membership "Kard."

"White—" he said, giving me the first half of the Klan's current secret password.

"—man," I replied, returning the countersign.

"Native—" he continued.

"—born," I concluded.

Satisfied that I was indeed his "Brother Klansman" and Klavalier, Carter dropped the recognition ritual we Klavaliers always used for telephonic conversations.

"This is Clearwater," he said solemnly, giving the code name by which he as Chieftain was known to us. "And this is a Fiery Summons! Remember your oath to be ready when called! The call is imperative! Bring your robe and come prepared —to Black Rock!"

Wide awake now, I was thinking hard. When Carter said "come prepared," I knew he meant for me to bring whatever deadly weapon I had available. "Black Rock" was our secret code name for the Atlanta suburb known as Buckhead—one of the key mobilization points which the Klavaliers had designated throughout the city. Someone—Negro, Jew, Catholic, or labour unionist—had been tagged for a KKK flogging or worse that night. Or perhaps I was literally being invited to my own funeral—which was always a possibility when I attended a Klan function.

I wondered whether I could rouse Dan Duke—the state's Assistant Attorney-General under whom I worked as an anti-Klan agent—in time to nip the Klavaliers' projected flogging or lynching party in the bud.

"Clearwater," I said weakly, "you know I've been very sick with the flu lately. I don't think I would be much good to you tonight."

"Klansman!" Carter roared. "You know the oath as well as I do! And I happen to know you are not bedridden! No other excuse is tolerated! You must go!" There was a click as he hung up.

I knew there was no way out—that I myself would be subject to "banishment" as a "citizen" of the Klan's "Invisible Empire" if I failed to respond to the summons. "Herein fail ye not! By mandate of His Lordship, the Imperial Wizard" is the way the little printed cards read in red ink, when a Fiery Summons is sent by mail. All action undertaken by the Klavalier Klub, which serves as the "Military Department" of the KKK, has the approval of the Wizard or Grand Dragon. All Klansmen are sworn not only to obey the edicts of the hierarchy but to enforce obedience upon any Brothers who fail to live up to this oath. I had seen one Klansman, who chose punishment to banishment, forced to run nude through a gauntlet of Klan belts. I had no desire to let myself in for the same thing.

I put in a rush call for Dan Duke, using the direct private telephone he had installed in his home to keep our Klan probe out of the hostile ears of telephone company switchboard operators. Duke had been out of the city on official business, and I had an anxious moment until I heard his sleepy voice on the phone. Briefly, I relayed to him the details of the Fiery Summons I had received.

"Got any idea who they're after this time?" Duke asked.

"Not the least," I had to admit.

"Well, I'll do my best to get my men out to Buckhead in time," Duke said. "If you get a chance to call me back without making anybody suspicious, phone me when you get more details."

"Right," I said. "I'd better get moving—it isn't healthy to be late for one of these affairs."

A few minutes later I was speeding in my car through the city's deserted streets—my automatic in my pocket and my black Klavalier's robe tucked under the seat.

As I approached Buckhead I could see, scattered over an area of several blocks as we had been trained to do to avoid suspicion, the cars of other Klavaliers who had arrived ahead of me.

Cars were still converging on the intersection, so I knew I would not be the last arrival. I wondered about Duke's men—whether they were somewhere on hand. Our whole "Operation Anti-Klan" was so ticklish that Duke had kept my identity from his other hand-picked undercover agents of the Georgia Department of Law, and I in turn had no idea who they were. So deep was the KKK infiltration inside the state's law enforcement agencies that my cheque was even drawn from a special account, as a precaution against real Klansmen on the state payroll discovering my identity.

Parking my car in the shadows of a side street, I went around to the parking lot behind an abandoned theatre which was our meeting place. I estimated that there were nearly forty Klavaliers assembled there, each one carrying his robe in small briefcase-like bags (which the Dragon sold at a neat profit for $10 each) or in paper bags or simply wrapped in newspapers. They were just standing there, smoking and talking in low tones, waiting for Carter to give them their riding orders for the night. Carter was checking those present by a list of numbers he carried. Finally he was satisfied that all those who had been summoned—thirty-seven, hand picked for reasons known only to himself—were present. Raising a hand as a signal for us to gather around him, Carter said:

"So far so good. You are all to be commended for getting here in good time. Keep your robes off for the time being, disperse, and proceed to Wingo's Café. Take your robes in with you. And keep a sharp lookout to see whether you are being followed!"

Wingo's Café was a joint in the East End of Atlanta, specializing in steaks, and open all night. We Klavaliers met there for steak dinners and corn liquor one night each month, but I couldn't imagine why we should be ordered there at two-thirty in the morning. I wondered if Carter were mean enough to do a job on the Negro chef, who on our last visit had refused to cook when he detected that we were Klansmen.

I decided to try to give Duke a ring on the way to Wingo's. Starting off slowly, I waited until I had turned the corner before cutting on my lights. Adjusting my rear-view mirror, I looked back to see if I were being followed. Just as I was about to relax, I saw that I was being tailed by a car without lights. Was it Duke's men—or Brother Klavaliers keeping an eye on me? The car kept too far behind for me to recognize it.

I tried speeding and I tried slowing down. Neither worked. Finally, putting all the distance I could between us, I careened around a corner, cut my lights and motor, and coasted far up into the dark driveway of the first house I came to. Immediately, a dog inside the house began to bark. I had visions of what might happen if lights began to go on inside. It seemed a long time before the following car turned the corner, and I held my breath in anticipation that it might spot me and slam on the brakes. It roared on down the street, hesitated at the corner, and then disappeared in a cloud of red Georgia clay dust.

The dog inside the house was barking louder than ever, and I wondered whether I had escaped my pursuers only to be accosted by an irate householder. I stamped on the starter and accelerator simultaneously. As the motor roared, the lights in the house flashed on, but in a matter of seconds I had backed out and was off down the street—on my way to an all-night drug store where I could telephone.

The tailing episode bothered me chiefly because, had my pursuers turned out to be Klavaliers, it would have meant I was under suspicion as the much-sought-after "spy" in the Klan. It would also have prevented me from tipping off Duke to the new mobilization point at Wingo's Café, in case his men failed to get there on their own.

I circled the drug store twice before deciding it was safe to make the call. Inside, I made certain that no one was in the adjoining phone booths. Duke said he had just had a call from his men, who had lost the trail after trying to tail a Klavalier car from Buckhead. They had been shaken, he said, without getting close enough to the car to describe it.

"It's a good thing you called," Duke said. "They're going to phone me back in five minutes, and I'll send them on to Wingo's!"

All this had taken time, and I raced to Wingo's without seeing any further signs of being followed. Most of the Klavaliers were already assembled in the private dining-room where we always convened. Carter was at the door.

"Enrobe, but do not put on your mask," he ordered.

The Brothers were all seated around a long table which had been formed by placing a number of tables together. Most of them had ordered hamburgers, and Carter had provided half a dozen bottles of cheap "drinking whisky" as a reward for their "faithfulness." Even with their masks off, they were an awesome sight. I was the last to arrive, and Carter, taking his place at the head of the table, lost no time in asking:

"Were any of you followed?"

"I was," I said promptly. "A carload of Duke's men got in behind me without any lights, and I had one hellova time shaking them. That's why I was late getting here. There's no doubt about it—the damned spy is still on the job."

Carter looked at me and blinked.

"Are you positive you shook them?" he asked finally.

"Absolutely," I replied.

"Anybody else followed?" Carter asked, looking around the room.

"Yeah, they tried to tail me too," said a Klavalier named Nathan Jones, "but I finally got rid of them. Somebody ought to pay me back for all the gas I had to burn."

This got a laugh from the brethren, but Carter cut it short.

"This is no laughing matter!" he roared. "The Judas we've been trying to catch so long is sitting right here at this table tonight! At last I know who he is! That's why you men were summoned here—to close the trap and mete out fitting punishment!"

It was a cold January night, but I began to sweat under my robe.

"Name the s.o.b.!" several Klavaliers shouted—and I joined in the chorus with what little enthusiasm I could muster.

"Take it easy," said Carter with a grim smile. He was playing cat-and-mouse, studying each man's face carefully. For a brief moment I thought of making a break for the door. It was closed, and while no guard had been posted outside of it to my knowledge, it occurred to me that Carter might have locked it. I wondered, too, about the odds of backing out of such a room even if I could succeed in getting the drop on them all with my automatic. The odds, I decided, were not too good—and when I noticed that Carter was keeping one hand under the table I decided to sit tight and sweat it out.

"I told you all to come prepared!" Carter said. "Let's see what you've got to work with!"

From under his own robe he pulled a .45 Police Special revolver, and laid it on the table in front of him. Amidst a tumult of curses to "let us at him," the Klavaliers followed suit. Soon the table was covered with an assortment of pistols, switch-blade "nigger-killer" knives, blackjacks, brassknucks, and a flogging whip made by sewing a piece of sawmill belt to a sawed-off baseball bat handle. Adding my automatic to the collection, I decided that the chances for a getaway were now non-existent.

"We're prepared, all right!" shouted one Brother. "Just name him!"

Carter only smiled, and the clamour arose like the frenzied "treed" baying of a pack of hounds gathered for the kill—gnashing their teeth in anticipation of rending their prey asunder. Carter kept smiling and watching.

"What are we gonna do with the rat?" one man shouted.

"You know the penalty," Carter spoke up. "Death, death, at the hands of a Brother!" He was quoting the oath we all took upon joining the Klan, wherein we swore to accept the death penalty if we ever betrayed the Klan's secrets.

"Let's take him out in the woods, fasten him to a log with a staple over his testicles, set fire to the log, give him a knife and tell him to 'Cut or burn!'" shouted one enthusiast.

Other proposals came thick and fast, each more bloodcurdling than the other. I tried without much conviction to make some suggestions of my own.

Every now and then Carter would toss them some more bait.

"We've waited a long time to corner the rat," he said, "and every one of you who is paid up in his dues can have a free hand in working him over. I'm going to start things off by standing him in front of a Klan altar and wearing off both my arms up to the elbows!"

"Don't you think we ought to banish him from citizenship in the Invisible Empire first?" one stickler for protocol asked. Banishment proceedings are a long-drawn-out ceremony, including a mock trial and concluded by a symbolic "burial" of the banished Brother.

"When we get through with him he won't need banishing!" Carter said solemnly, still watching.

But he had stopped smiling.

Suddenly, I almost smiled with the realization that Carter was bluffing—that he had no idea whom to put his finger on. Fortunately, I didn't smile, for Carter was clever enough to have interpreted a smile at that moment. But I kicked myself mentally for not having considered the possibility that Carter had merely set a trap and hoped that someone would make a break and dash into it. I took a long pull at the "drinking whisky" and rejoined the debate with far more enthusiasm than before.

At last, when he could stall the men no longer, Carter stood up.

"Brother Klansmen and Dirty Rat," he began sardonically, "I'm sorry to have to disappoint you, but we're going to have to put off the killing a little while longer. I don't know who the rat is, but I hoped that by giving him a little rope here tonight he would hang himself by trying to make a break for it. I wish he had. Knowing the penalty, I can't understand how any man would dare rat on the Klan! Anyway, we've narrowed the prospects down to thirty-seven men—the men right here in this room. We're hot on his trail, and it's getting hotter all the time. We know he's here tonight, or we would never have been followed. Our Klokann investigating committee is made up of the best detectives on the Atlanta police force, and we'll catch the rat yet!

"I want to congratulate you all for your quick mobilization tonight. There is plenty of good work that needs to be done, and we will attend to it just as soon as we get rid of the rat. As long as he is in our midst, our hands are tied. Catch him, and I promise you we'll light up the skies with fiery crosses! There'll be something doing every night!

"Disrobe now, and go back to your homes. And if any of you are stopped by Duke's men, remember the marks of a Klavalier—not only to be ready when called, but to have guts and a tight lip! Sew up your mouths, and they can't hold you! Disperse!"

There was a scrambling for what was left of the whisky, and a great deal of profanity, but nothing new was proposed by way of punishing the "rat."

I was never so happy to disperse in my life.



I didn't get much sleep the rest of that night. Instead, I lay there in bed thinking about some of the things that had led to my joining the Klan and getting into such a hot spot....

I remembered how as a kid my first knowledge of the Klan came when I discovered my Uncle Brady Perkins' flowing white robe and mask tucked away in a closet. I slipped the hood over my head and peered through the eye-slits—little anticipating then that so much of my adult life was to be spent behind a Klan mask.

"Is that white gown in the closet your ghost costume for Hallowe'en?" I asked Uncle Brady when he came home that night.

"No, sonny," he replied, more than a little miffed that I had discovered his secret. "Some of us grown-up menfolks have a club we call the Ku Klux, and we wear those robes when we have to go out and scare or spank bad people to make them behave!"

Sometime later, my family took me one night to see my first Ku Klux parade. We were standing on the kerb of Jacksonville, Florida's, Main Street, when the Klansmen came into view. At the head of the procession were two Klansmen mounted on horseback. The horses were also clad in flowing white, with masks over their faces very much like those I had seen in my history books on the steeds of tilting medieval knights. One of the mounted Knights of the KKK bore a flaming fiery cross, while the other blew long mournful blasts on a bugle. At each intersection they would jerk on their reins, and the horses would rear up and paw at the air, neighing shrilly. It was an awe-inspiring spectacle, and I was duly impressed.

As the Klansmen marched past, six abreast, I kept my eyes glued on the feet protruding from beneath the robes.

"There he is—that's Uncle Brady!" I cried out finally, when I spied his old-fashioned hook-top shoes.


Excerpted from The Klan Unmasked by Stetson Kennedy. Copyright © 1990 Stetson Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface: KKK Book Stands Up to Claim of Falsehood by Charlie Patton,
Introduction: Superman Busts the KKK by David Pilgrim,
Stetson's Side of the Story by Stetson Kennedy,
1. The Fiery Summons,
2. Why I Joined the Klan,
3. Before the Altar of Hate,
4. The Way of the Klavern,
5. Operation Anti-Klan,
6. I Work My Way Into the Flog Squad,
7. The Klavaliers Ride to a Fall,
8. Juvenile Delinquents of the KKK,
9. Assorted Nuts,
10. In Daniel's Den,
11. Dynamite,
12. The Wool-Hat Putsch,
13. Bigotry Before the Bar,
14. Tri-K Round-Up,
15. Meeting in Macon,
16. Terror in Miami,
17. Night Ride in Sunny Florida,
18. Investigating the Investigators,
19. Fire!,
Kluxed Again? (1990),
How to Kan the Klan: A Handbook for Counterterrorist Action (1990),

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