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Stetson Kennedy collection

 Collection — Box: 1818
Identifier: MSS 2008-031

Scope and Contents

The Stetson Kennedy Collection documents the career of this notable writer and political activist. Materials include biographical materials, correspondence concerning Kennedy's speaking engagements, plans for a documentary about his life, and comments about his publications; French and English newsclippings about obtaining movie rights to Kennedy's book The Klan Unmasked; programs; publicity, and videotaped excerpts of his interviews. There are copies of letters from notable individuals such as Pearl S. Buck, Erskine Caldwell, Woody Guthrie, Martin Luther King, Jr., Herman Talmadge, Studs Terkel, and Richard Wright.


  • created: 1940-2002
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1992-2002
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/2001

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

Stetson Kennedy, an award-winning author and human rights activist, is also known as a pioneering folklorist, a labor activist, and environmentalist. Born in Jacksonville in 1916, Kennedy was one of the pioneer folklore collectors during the first half of the Twentieth Century. As a teenager, he began collecting white and African-American folklore material while he was collecting accounts for his father, a furniture merchant. He left the University of Florida, in 1937, to join the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Florida Writers' Project, and at the age of 21, was put in charge of folklore, oral history, and ethnic studies.

After World War II, Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white supremacist groups. While working undercover in the Klan, he provided information - including secret code words and details of Klan rituals - to the writers of the Superman radio program. This activity resulted in a series of four episodes in which Superman battled the KKK.

A founding member and past president of the Florida Folklore Society, Kennedy is a recipient of the Florida Folk Heritage Award, the Florida Governor's Heartland Award as well as an inductee of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. In addition to his passion for folklore, Kennedy became friends with many notable literary figures. These individuals include Erskine Caldwell, who became so interested in Kennedy's work in an essay competition that he went on to edit his novel on Floridian folklore, Palmetto Country. Kennedy was Zora Neale Hurston's friend when she served in the Florida WPA. While he was living in Paris in the mid 1950's, Jean Paul Sartre published Kennedy's The Jim Crow Guide to the USA, after Kennedy could not find any interested American publishers.

Stetson Kennedy has written extensively and has been the subject of numerous articles by authors, young scholars, academics, film makers, and journalists. In addition to the works cited above, he wrote I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan; Southern Exposure; The Jim Crow Guide: The Way It Was; South Florida Folklife (co-authored with Peggy A. Bulger and Tina Bucuvalas); After Appomattox, and Grits and Grunts: Folkloric Key West.


9.00 folders

Language of Materials



Articles, correspondence, memorabilia, newsclippings, and other materials related to Stetson Kennedy's professional career.

Method of Acquisition

Given to FSU Libraries in 2001 by Madeleine Carr, via Elna Green.

Existence and Location of Originals

Portions of collection available online?: No

Processing Information

Processed by Burt Altman in December 2008.

Stetson Kennedy collection
Burt Altman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US