Stetson Kennedy is in grave condition at Baptist South Hospital near St. Augustine according to an announcement received by Historic City News and according to an article posted by Sean Kennedy, which reports that he is “in and out of conciseness”.
Kennedy, who will turn 95 years-old on October 5th, has widely written and been written on; he has been discovered and re-discovered by authors, young scholars, academics, filmmakers, and journalists alike.
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 “a dollar down and dollar a week” accounts for his father, a furniture merchant.
He left the University of Florida, in 1937, to join the WPA Florida Writers’ Project, and was soon, at the age of 21, put in charge of folklore, oral history, and ethnic studies.
After World War II, Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. While undercover in the Klan, he provided information – including secret code words and details of Klan rituals – to the writers of the Superman radio program. Resulting 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 has become friends with many literary giants. Including: Erskine Caldwell, who became so interested in his work in an essay competition, that he went on to edit his novel on Floridian folklore, “Palmetto Country”. He was Zora Neale Hurston’s friend and boss in the Florida WPA.
While he was living in Paris in the mid 1950’s, Jean Paul Sartre published, “The Jim Crow Guide”, after Kennedy could not find any interested American publishers.
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