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UF Celebrates the Donation of Stetson Kennedy's Papers with Panel

22, October, 2013

Gainesville, FL—The papers and writings of Stetson Kennedy, firebrand activist, writer, and folklorist of the American South, have been donated to the University of Florida by the Stetson Kennedy Trust and was celebrated in a panel event on October 22, 2013. In this major acquisition, Kennedy’s papers joined those of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neale Hurston as part of the literary manuscripts of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries.

Stetson Kennedy (1916-2011) epitomized the energy and drive of American social activism. As Dr. Paul Ortíz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, has noted, “Kennedy spent the better part of the 20th century doing battle with racism, class oppression, corporate domination, and environmental degradation in the American South.” He pitted himself against the Ku Klux Klan, going undercover in order to investigate their activities, then broadcasting some of his findings through 1947 episodes of the radio series Adventures of Superman (“Clan of the Fiery Cross”) in which the iconic American superhero battles the KKK. Kennedy had to flee the country to escape retribution, living for a year in Paris.

His writings and constant advocacy for social justice brought him into contact with Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Richard Wright, Lillian Smith, Woody and Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, Zora Neale Hurston, Myles Horton, Virginia Durr, Alan Lomax, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Erskine Caldwell (who edited his first book) and Florida freedom fighters and martyrs Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore. Many of his books have become classics, including Palmetto Country (1942), Southern Exposure (1946), The Klan Unmasked (1954), and the Jim Crow Guide to the U.S.A. (1959).

Among the 35+ honors and awards Kennedy received during his life were the Jules Verne Medal (1992), the Peace and Utility Award (co-recipient with Jimmy Carter and Katherine Dunham, 1993), an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of North Florida (1994), the Dr. Benjamin Spock Peacemaker of the Year Award (2001), the Literary Legend Award from the Florida Heritage Book Festival (2008), and the Dorothy Dodd Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Historical Society (2010). He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2005.

The Stetson Kennedy Papers at the University of Florida encompass core areas of his career, spanning his high school writings to his most recent and unpublished work, and include correspondence, a mass of published articles, photographs, research files, and several hundred audio and audio-video files of interviews with him, interviews by him, and recordings of his public talks. Other institutions in the United States with collections of Kennedy’s work include the Department of Special Collections at the University of South Florida, Georgia State University, the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the University of North Carolina. His personal library was donated to the Civic Media Center, Gainesville, Florida.

A full day of special events has been planned for October 22. In the morning, beginning at 10 a.m., there will be an open house in Room 1A, George A. Smathers Library, with an exhibit of materials from the Stetson Kennedy Papers. This will be followed at noon with a reception and commentary on the writing careers of Stetson Kennedy and Zora Neale Hurston by Sandra Parks and Lucy Anne Hurston. At 2:00 p.m. also in Room 1A there will be a showing of the film “Soul Of A People—Writing America’s Story” about the 1930s Federal Writers Project.

The day’s main event will be the panel presentation “Stetson Kennedy: Re-Imagining Justice in the 21stCentury,” at 6 p.m. in Pugh Hall with opening comments from UF First Lady Chris Machen. The panel, which will also be live broadcast over the internet, will be moderated by Ben Brotemarkle, executive director of the Florida Historical Society. Comments and discussion by Marvin Dunn, Peggy Bulger, and Lucy Anne Hurston will focus on the legacy of Stetson Kennedy’s prolific activism and powerful works. Famed local blues musician Willie Green will also perform at the event. Following the panel, a reception and book signing will be held in Pugh with the panelists, whose books will be on sale alongside a limited number of Stetson Kennedy’s autographed works.

Sponsors for the event include the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the Smathers Libraries, Civic Media Center and the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Rothman Endowment. For information on upcoming events, contact Sarah Blanc at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (s.v.blanc@gmail.com) or James Cusick, curator, P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History (jgcusick@ufl.edu). For more information on Stetson Kennedy, please visit the Stetson Kennedy Foundation (http://www.stetsonkennedy.com/).

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program spohpevents@gmail.com

1st annual Stetson Kennedy Folklife and Floridiana Festival

11, May, 2013

MATHESON MUSEUM, Gainesville FLA- Aquiant the public with the folklore of north Florida from the mid 20th century backwards using Stetson Kennedy's life and work as a lens. Join us 10AM to 5 PM for lectures Demos, events and of course music.

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Admirers Flock To Stetson Kennedy's 93rd Birthday

Ocotober, 2009
By Bridget Murphy

They brought gifts that included a painting, a book and a 12-cup Mr. Coffee coffee maker.

It is difficult deciding what to buy a celebrated literary figure for his 93rd birthday, songwriter Frank Thomas confessed of his friend Stetson Kennedy.

What do you buy for a Florida Artists Hall of Famer, an honor that put Kennedy in the company of writers including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams?

So Thomas, who like Woody Guthrie wrote a song about Kennedy's exposure of the Ku Klux Klan, opted for the practical. The author's coffee machine wasn't working, so Thomas got his 'ole buddy Stets something he could use to brew his java.

"How do you pay a man back for what he's done and what he's been through?" Thomas said. "He put his life on the line."

Sunday's occasion at Kennedy's home at Beluthahatchee Park also arrived as a sight-impaired Jacksonville man delivered the first copy of an audio version of Kennedy's book "The Klan Unmasked," as made for the Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library Services.

"Is this the talking book?" Kennedy asked, signing the first such audio edition of his work while taking a few minutes for an interview.

The book, one of several he's written, is Kennedy's account of infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. First published in the 1950s, it raised controversy upon a 1990 re-release when it became known that events Kennedy wrote of firsthand were embellished or happened to another undercover operative. The author said then he used the most compelling writing style he could, and regretted not explaining his methods in an introduction.

He mostly talked Sunday about what made the day's celebration dear to him. With so many birthdays behind him, Kennedy focused on how he wanted to be remembered after he'd seen his last.

"I hope I made some difference but today is very special for me because I couldn't prove that I made a difference but I can prove that I made some friends," he said.

The writer sat on the deck of the house that will become a museum and on park land that the government has bought and will preserve for the public's use after his death. An avid environmentalist, Kennedy also spoke about creating the man-made lake above which he sat "with his own hands and a $25 chain saw."

After a while, Kennedy's better half, Sandra Parks, reminded her husband of the 100 or so guests he had waiting. She said her wish for his birthday was "another five years" of living, joking: "As long as he's got a book in line and is adored, he's not going anywhere."

Several well-wishers gathered on the deck, listening to Kennedy answer questions including what advice he'd give young people who want to make a difference in society.

He said he blames institutions like schools and the media for perpetrating a culture of whiteness. He suggested young people form committees and confront such employers to "call the attention to their whiteness." Such a group could recommend a "talent bank of qualified people" so African-Americans could fill more roles.

The author also recalled seeing the thousands who came to see President Obama speak in Jacksonville during the presidential campaign, saying he never thought he'd see such a day.

Then the small man wearing the blue leisure suit, sensible brown shoes and a rumpled bucket hat askew on his head excused himself. The spiral ham, biscuits, white-iced chocolate sheet cake, and other goodies couldn't keep his guests satisfied forever.

So the birthday boy accepted a handshake, then walked away with a wide gait, a swing in his arms and determination in every step. There still were books to write, friends and fans to adore him.





Rocking The Boat: Studs Terkel's 20th Century

May, 2008

Studs TerkelIn this 15 minute tailer, Studs Terkel, Hazel Wolf, Stetson Kennedy and others talk about their activism in the last century. ROCKING THE BOAT: STUDS TERKEL'S 20TH CENTURY, is an educational DVD which began as a PBS documentary for KCTS, Seattle in 1998. It is adapted, with permission, from Studs Terkel’s book COMING OF AGE.

ROCKING THE BOAT takes a close look at the social progress achieved during the last century and how it was achieved, as seen through the eyes of 95 -year-old oral historian Studs Terkel (who was 85 years young when the production was filmed) and nearly a dozen of his contemporaries. There will be an accompanying Web site in addition to this Google Video work-in-progress

Wath The Trailer > Google Video



Stetson Kennedy Awards

Click the link below to see some of the awards Stetson Kennedy has received over his lifetime.

Awards of Stetson Kennedy


  • Kennedy Goes to Washington
  • 2008 Calendar
  • New Book! Grits & Grunts
  • Oral History Association
  • Terkel's Rocking The Boat
  • New Deal Celebration
  • Stetson's Year in Review
  • Two Old Crusaders
  • Tributes to Stetson
  • Lynching that wasn't
  • Stetson Weds Sandra
  • Controversy Results
  • Literary Landmark
  • Guthrie's Visit
  • A Lonely Struggle
  • Florida Hall of Fame
  • Kennedy on Alan Lomax
  • Peacemaker of the Year
  • MLK Breakfast
  • Stetson on 9/11
  • NPR 1930's Folklife
  • Awards
  • StetsonKennedy.com