The Stetson Kennedy Foundation
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Second Sundays at Stetson's

A monthly concert series showcasing artists in-line with the causes of Stetson Kennedy

Artists In Residency

Songwriters & Artists are inspired by Beluthahatchee and Woody Guthrie

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With half a dozen Stetson Kennedys,
we can transform our society into one of truth, grace and beauty
Studs Terkel
b:1916   d:2011

Stetson Kennedy
A Brief Overview

William Stetson Kennedy was born in Jacksonville Florida on October 5, 1916 to George and Willie Stetson-Kennedy. As a young boy, the oldest of five children in his prosperous Riverside family, Stetson was tasked with going door to door to collect the $1 down/$1 a week payments to his father’s furniture store. Early on, he saw the economic and racial disparity that existed in his own hometown and became determined to do something about it. Stetson hunted down answers rather than shrugging at questions

“ During months spent trying to pose as a hard-boiled bill collector, seeking payments on furniture accounts from impoverished Southern whites and Negroes during the depths of the depression, I became acutely aware of one-third of the nation. No sooner was I aware of their problems than I determined to do something about them. It seemed simple at first. I would write a book telling how the multitudes suffer from lack of food, clothing, shelter – and the other two-thirds of the nation (who couldn’t possibly realize how much suffering was going on) would read the book and take appropriate action to alleviate the distressful conditions. I was not long so naïve.” Stetson Kennedy, 1936

He left the University of Florida in 1937 to join the WPA’s Florida Writers' Project, and at the age of 21 was put in charge of folklore, oral history, and ethnic studies. While he was with the WPA, he oversaw the work of African American writer Zora Neal Hurston, among others.

For nearly a decade during the 1940’s, Kennedy infiltrated and informed on the criminal activities of the Ku Klux Klan, taking their secrets to the airwaves through the Super Man Radio Show and testifying in court against the Klan. Kennedy reported those experiences in his book, The Klan Unmasked, published first in England and decades later by University Presses of Florida. He ran as a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1950 on a platform of “not white supremacy but right supremacy.”

b:1916   d:2011

Stetson Kennedy
A Brief Overview


With a KKK contract out on him ($1,000 a pound) Kennedy flew to Geneva, Switzerland in the early 1950’s to testify on forced labor practices in Florida’s turpentine camps, remaining in Europe for eight years. His articles were published in a magazine edited by Jean-Paul Sartre, who secured publication of his Guide to Jim Crow, a compilation of racial discrimination laws.

Kennedy joined protestors in Jacksonville at sit-ins at Woolworth’s downtown lunch counter, and was there on bloody “Axe Handle Saturday” on August 27, 1960. He later reported on the demonstrations in St. Augustine with Dr. Martin Luther King for the Pittsburgh Courier. For years, he worked side by side with Alton Yates and others at the Greater Jacksonville Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Youth Crisis Center.

During the last two decades of his life, Kennedy received long overdue recognition as one of the nation’s civil rights pioneers, being inducted into the Florida Artist’s Hall of Fame in 2005, and receiving numerous accolades including the Florida Folk Heritage Award, Dorothy Dodd Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Historical Society, People of Vision Award from St. Johns County, the Ghandi, King, Ikeda Award, Peace and Unity Award, Jules Verne Medal of Honor, the NAACP Freedom Award and myriad others.

Kennedy is known for his books Southern Exposure, The Klan Unmasked (formerly, I Rode with the KKK), among others. He has been discovered and rediscovered by authors, young scholars, academics, filmmakers, musicians and journalists alike. Up until his death in 2011, Kennedy continued to champion the human rights causes that drove his life of activism. His advice to young people was always to "Pick a cause and stick to it."

Following a lifetime spent championing human rights, cultural heritage, and environmental stewardship, author, folklorist and activist Stetson Kennedy, 94, passed away on August 27, 2011. His mind, we are reminded, remained razor sharp until the end. The attending physician at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Stetson was rushed by ambulance, asked "Where are you Stetson"?. To which Stetson replied "planet Earth".

Today, The Stetson Kennedy Foundation perpetuates his life work, partnering with the community in advocating for Fellow Man and Mother Earth.

Stetson Kennedy
What They're Saying

In the writings of Stetson Kennedy, education and social action are constantly joined. Generations of human rights advocates have used his investigative reporting and research to improve the conditions of agricultural works, women, Latinos, and many others. Stetson Kennedy's pursuit of honesty, social equality, and freedom was unparalleled. He told stories of America's Forgotten People. Dr, Paul Ortiz
He ain't the worlds best writer, nor the worlds best speller but when he believes in somthin' he's the loudest yeller. Woody Guthrie
Stetson was steeped in folklore. His attitude was, “What good is it if it doesn’t make the world a better place?” With Stetson, it was all about making the world a better place.Peggy Bulger
Along with his wonderful abilities as a writer and scholar, Stetson possesses enormous courage, social involvement, and a big heart... He's a brave man, of great conscience, and ought to be accorded a seat alongside Patrick Henry and other great freedom fighters.Alan Lomax
Stetson, your life defines the human rights struggle of the 20th century.President Betty Castor, University of South Florida
Stetson Kennedy is our Nation’s No. 1 Klan-buster. He's done a painstaking and patriotic job in exposing the KKK. Everyone interested in the future of America should read his book The Klan Unmasked.Drew Pearson
Back in the forties, when the going was very, very rough, Stetson Kennedy was working with me and our Atlanta office, and he infiltrated not just one, but many Klans.Arnold Forster, general counsel, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith


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Artists in Residency

At Stetsons Home, something very special is brewing. The Stetson Kennedy Songwriter Residency is here. Artists will experience Beluthahatchee for 1-2 weeks and upon the conclusion of their stay will perform a showcase near Beluthahatchee. Inspiration and Art come together at Beluthahatchee Park

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Stetson Kennedy Books

It's my belief that writers, like ordinary people, serve one of two purposes in life: either social or anti-social. I cannot see how a writer can be neutral. Stetson Kennedy

Klu Klux Klan Documents Exposed

All Klansmen take an oath that, in the event that they ever divulge a Klan secret, they will “willingly accept death, death, death at the hands of a brother.” For generations, secrecy has been the Klan's stock-in-trade. Without any, here's hoping it will just fold its robes, and fade away and die.
Stetson Kennedy

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