How Superman Defeated the KKK
Do you remember when Superman thwarted General Zod? Or when he smashed Metallico? How about when he toppled the domestic terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan? Ironically, the third and most ridiculous sounding battle is the only one that occurred in real life. In 1946, Superman defeated the KKK.
After World War II ended, American men had lingering violence in their veins. They were searching for something to rally behind and, albeit twisted, the Ku Klux Klan provided a cause for some. The secretive society advertised that they were “protecting America” from threats within. Those “threats” included African Americans, Jews, women and various other historically oppressed groups that many of the same recruits had just fought to free from Nazis. It’s membership grew to a terrifying all-time high.
Meanwhile, the nationally popular Superman radio program was experiencing an uncharacteristic lull in listener interest. Just as US soldiers were fighting Nazis during the war, so had been Superman. As the leading form of entertainment, radio was used during the 1930s to encourage nationalism in America. Superman did his part by combatting true-life characters such as Hitler and Mussolini. Entire families would gather around the radio on Saturday mornings to cheer on their favorite hero as he pummeled their most demised bad guys. When the war ended, however, Superman returned to fighting otherworldly villains and his audience lost their connection. The stories weren’t relatable any more.
A young writer/activist by the name of Stetson Kennedy came up with a creative solution.
Kennedy was uncomfortable with the growing presence of the Ku Klux Klan in America. As a journalist, he’d already gone undercover and learned their secrets. He shared information with police and government officials but was disappointed to realize that nobody had the courage to prosecute a socially respected club (which the KKK was at the time). Furthermore, Kennedy began to fear for his own safety. How could he be certain that the officers he’d turn-coated for weren’t Klan members themselves? With limited time and options, the resourceful reporter called upon the most courageous and honorable figure he could think of: Superman!
In early 1946, Kennedy approached the Superman radio creators with a revolutionary idea. Using his extensive knowledge of Klan secrets, he would help write detailed episodes in which Superman battled the Ku Klux Klan! When the stories broadcasted, they depicted Klan members as being stupid, childish, ignorant and evil. Children across the country adopted this mentality. If their idol, Superman, opposed the KKK they would too. Suddenly, fathers became ashamed and embarrassed of their involvement in Klan activities. Membership plummeted and Superman conquered. A fictional character had defeated a very real menace to society.
Moral of the story?
If you join the KKK, Superman may punch you in the jaw!