What’s white, racist, and totally insane? No, it’s not Mel Gibson. We’re talking about the Ku Klux Klan, America’s most infamous hate group. Founded in 1870, the KKK has terrorized American citizens through propaganda, arson, and murder. Fortunately, the Klan’s popularity has faded over time, and today they’re viewed as a sad reminder of America’s racist history. But what’s even more interesting is the history of the Klan itself because, when you come right down to it, the KKK is completely crazy.
10. The Black Cop In The Klan
In 1979, undercover police officer Ron Stallworth spotted an interesting ad in his local newspaper. The KKK was moving into his town of Colorado Springs and was looking for new recruits. Stallworth decided to call them up and see if he could infiltrate the group. Of course, there was one little issue that made things a bit difficult — Stallworth was black. Not a guy to let details get in the way, Stallworth phoned up the Klan and told them he was a white man tired of being harassed by minorities. He even mentioned how angry he was that his sister had dated an African-American (not the term he used). His act worked. The Klan was only too happy to welcome Stallworth into the fold… after an initial meeting.
Thinking on his feet, Stallworth sent a white narcotics officer in his place. He gave his buddy several forms of non-photo I.D. to prove he was actually Stallworth, and a few hours later the guy came back with an application form. Over the next year, Stallworth’s partner attended meetings while the undercover agent chatted with Klansman over the phone. He even called up and talked to Grand Wizard David Duke on several occasions. During one conversation, Duke said he could identify black people by the way they talked, something that must’ve made Stallworth chuckle. Eventually, Stallworth became such a respected member of the KKK that he was offered a leadership position in the local branch. Since that obviously couldn’t work out, the operation was cancelled, and Klansman Stallworth disappeared. However, during his investigation, Stallworth learned quite a bit about the Klan’s activities and prevented any cross burnings from occurring in Colorado Springs. Stallworth was so proud of his work that he framed his KKK membership card and hung it in his office until his well-deserved retirement.
9. The KKK Hates The Westboro Baptists
Nobody likes the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), not even the KKK. While you’d think these two hate groups would get along—especially with their similar views on homosexuals, Jews and Christianity—they actually have quite a few differences, especially in regards to America’s military.
On Memorial Day 2011, three members of the WBC showed up at Arlington Cemetery with their usual assortment of “You’re Going to Hell” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” signs. However, just a few feet away were ten members of the Knights of the Southern Cross, a Virginia branch of everybody’s favorite racist organization. The KKK had shown up specifically to counter-protest the Westboro bunch, and they spent the day handing out American flags. While everything seemed relatively peaceful (for a WBC/KKK protest that is), things might’ve gotten nasty if police officers weren’t on the scene. When reporters asked the Klansmen if they were armed, they refused to answer.
As to the WBC, they weren’t particularly upset by the Klan’s arrival. Abigail Phelps, daughter of the late Fred, declared the KKK had “no moral authority,” claiming the Bible doesn’t support their racist views. Imperial Wizard Dennis LaBonte shot back, saying it was the soldiers who fought for Westboro’s right to protest. So who won this ultimate smackdown of evil? Well, at the end of the day both groups are still terrible, so we’ll say they both lost.
8. The Literary Origins of Cross Burning
Other than their ghostly hoods, the image most often associated with the KKK is that of a fiery cross. The Klan claims this eerie act symbolizes their Christian beliefs, and in a bizarre PR move, they’ve re-dubbed this ritual a “cross lighting.” Of course, we all know the reason behind their little bonfires. Like Justice Clarence Thomas once said, cross burnings represent the Klan’s “reign of terror” against African-Americans across the U.S. But how did this crazy custom get started?
Well, literary fans, we’re sorry to say that Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott unintentionally played a pivotal role in terrifying thousands of black people throughout the 20th century. The Ivanhoe author was extremely popular in the American South, probably because the southern states were populated with people of Scotch-Irish origin. They were especially fond of his 1810 poem The Lady of the Lake, which referenced an ancient Scottish custom of burning a cross to call a meeting of all the clans (although the Scottish cross was in the shape of an “X,” not the Roman one we associate with Jesus).
Scott’s vivid imagery captured the imagination of novelist Thomas Dixon. Not only was he a fan of Scottish poetry, Dixon was also a supporter of the KKK. Inspired by Scott’s cross burning scene, he added it to his pro-Klan novel, The Clansman, even though the first KKK (1886 to early 1870s) had never even thought about setting a crucifix on fire. When the 1905 novel was turned into the infamous movie The Birth of a Nation, director D.W. Griffith kept the cross burning scene. The scene inspired William J. Simmons, founder of the second Klan, to kick off the 1915 revival with the first cross burning service in KKK history. Thanks, Sir Walter Scott!
7. Superman Fought the Klan
The Man of Steel has fought some pretty dangerous villains in his day, from Doomsday to Brainiac to Lex Luthor. However, in the 1940s, Superman took on an even more dangerous foe, the dreaded KKK. On June 10, 1946, kids across America tuned in their radios to hear The Adventures of Superman and were enthralled by a new serial called “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” Instead of fighting boring old Neo-Nazis or gangsters, this time Superman was battling racism.
“Clan of the Fiery Cross” was the brainchild of Stetson Kennedy, a Georgia man who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan to learn their secrets. He attended meetings, observed rituals, memorized passwords and tried to pass his information to law enforcement officials. However, the cops weren’t interested. Either they were too afraid to take a stand against the Klan, or they were actually members. Frustrated, Kennedy approached the producers of The Adventures of Superman radio show and asked if they were interested in exposing the Klan. They jumped at the chance, and soon the show was mocking the hooded baddies and revealing their codes and customs.
Shocked and outraged, the local clan Kennedy had joined started coming up with new passwords and observances. And just as quickly, “Klansman” Kennedy passed along all their new practices to the Superman producers. In fact, it’s said the local branch he’d infiltrated was so humiliated that they actually closed down their chapter. After the success of the Superman show, Kennedy would continue fighting intolerance, publishing books and helping the government crack down on the Klan. He might not have had X-ray vision or the ability to fly, but Stetson Kennedy was a real-life superhero.
6. The KKK Summer Getaway
Looking for a little rest, relaxation and racial purity? Well, if you had lived in Rockport, Texas ninety years ago, you could have visited the Kool Koast Kamp! Billed as an outing “for a red-blooded American” (Klan language for a white person), the seaside resort offered all sorts of fun activities like daylight yachting, moonlight excursions and watermelon parties. Attendees were encouraged to take a dip in the cool, blue ocean, but were asked to refrain from “extreme dress.” Feel like fishing? The Klan was more than happy to provide rods, reels, boats and bait. And who knows? You might even learn a thing or two. The Kamp brochure promised that guests would learn the differences between hammerheads, sea urchins and porpoises.
Most importantly, the camp was perfectly safe, especially for white women. The brochure boldly states that “wonderful mothers” need not fear for their safety. “The Fiery Cross guards you at night and an officer of the law, with the same Christian sentiment, guards carefully all portals.” “Beautiful daughters” were also assured the Kamp was just as safe as a mom’s embrace.
As bizarre as this all sounds, the Kool Koast Kamp wasn’t really that weird in 1924. Back in the day, the Klan was viewed as a social institution, an organization that helped build and strengthen the community. The group gave money to down-on-their-luck members and promoted small businesses owned by hood-wearing entrepreneurs. Similarly, the resort was meant for poorer Klan clans who couldn’t afford a fancy vacation. For $10, a family could rent an Army tent (complete with cots) and enjoy ten days of summertime fun. However, the Kamp had a second, much more insidious goal. Attendees were asked to bring along non-members in hopes of gaining new recruits. The idea was to dispel negative media portrayals and show the world that Klansmen were just normal, fun loving, family oriented Americans… who lynched black people. They didn’t mention that last part in the brochure.
5. The KKK Show For Kids
When the first episode of The Andrew Show aired in 2009, white audiences were introduced to a blonde-haired boy of about ten. His name was Andrew Pendergraft, and he liked talking about movies, TV shows and the dangers of race mixing. Of course, this preteen hater was nothing more than an indoctrinated pawn reading from cue cards the whole time.
Little Andrew is the grandson of Thom Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the most powerful KKK group today. Robb has spent his life remarketing the Klan as a friendlier, less hateful organization. Part of his ploy involved creating a series of white pride web shows, all hosted by members of his family who sit in front of ugly green screens. For the adults, there’s This Is the Klan which features Robb and his daughter/Andrew’s mom, Amanda Pendergraft, discussing the news. For the teens, there’s Youth Focus, hosted by Shelby Pendergraft who’s also a member of the racist country group “The Heritage Connection.” And most disturbingly, there’s “The Andrew Show,” the Sesame Street for baby bigots.
Each of the eighteen episodes starts off with Andrew smiling for the camera and welcoming viewers with, “This show is for all the white kids out there!” He then proceeds to talk about whatever movies or shows he’s watched lately and then ties them into KKK ideology. In one episode, he complains about how the character of Tiana from The Princess and the Frog falls in love with a white character. He critiqued The Spy Next Door for showing Jackie Chan dating a white woman. He’s also full of troubling anecdotes to help drive his point home. For example, Andrew once compared baking a cake to interracial relationships. “My mom taught us about the frosting and when you put the different colors in it—the white frosting? It can never be white again.” While The Andrew Show promotes hatred, it’s important to remember the real victim here — Andrew himself. After all, he’s just a brainwashed kid.
4. The KKK Highway Scandal
Americans love the First Amendment. It guarantees people the right to say and believe whatever they want. But those rights apply to everyone, no matter how awful their beliefs. That’s something the state of Missouri found out the hard way. In 1994, the state’s Department of Transportation received an application from the local Klan. The group wanted to adopt a section of Interstate 55, which mean not only would they be cleaning the highway, they’d get their very own sign on the side of the road.
Obviously, Missouri wasn’t too keen on condoning Klan activities and refused the application. Furious, the Klan took the Department of Transportation to court… and won. The judge decided the KKK had every right to adopt a stretch of highway, a ruling the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in March 2000. While they were legally defeated, Missouri had one last surprise for the Klan. Shortly after the ruling, the state congress renamed the section adopted by the Klan “Rosa Parks Highway” after the famous civil rights activist. However, in 2012, the KKK lost interest in the highway and stopped picking up trash, which allowed the government to kick them out of the program.
History has a tendency to repeat itself though, and that same year, the International Keystone Knights of the KKK asked to adopt a part of Georgia State Route 515. Despite their claims that they just wanted to keep the road “beautiful,” the government turned them down, knowing full well the adoption was really a PR move. Of course, if the events in Missouri are any sign, Georgia will probably lose their battle too. In a society that treasures free speech and freedom of belief, those liberties belong to everyone, even the bad guys.
3. The KKK Store That’s Owned By A Black Pastor
Laurens, South Carolina has a sad history when it comes to racism. The town is named after an 18th century slave trader and, like many southern cities, was plagued by segregation and civil injustice. As an example of its tragic past, look no further than the Echo Theater. Once upon a time, African-Americans were forced to enter through a side door and watch movies from the balcony, separated from their white neighbors. Today, Echo Theater is home to the notorious Redneck Shop, a little store that sells Klan merchandise and hosts neo-Nazi meetings. But while the store is run by a racist named John Howard, the theater itself belongs to Rev. David Kennedy, a black pastor.
Why does an African-American reverend own a KKK shop? Well, the answer is kind of complicated. The story starts in 1994, when John Howard befriended a young man named Michael Burden. Howard took Burden under his wing, taught him the ways of the Klan, and let Burden and his family live in the Echo Theater basement. But Burden’s wife, who was part Cherokee, eventually grew tired of Howard’s racism. She wanted to leave, but Howard didn’t want his protégé to move. Hoping to appease the family, Howard gave Burden the deed to the theater under the condition he could run the Redneck Shop until his death.
Despite Howard’s gift, the two men eventually had a fight, and the elder racist kicked the Burdens out of the basement. The Burdens were alone and had nowhere to go, and that’s when Rev. Kennedy and the New Beginning Church stepped in. Despite the fact Burden was a Klansman, the black church bought his family dinner and rented them a hotel room. And as Burden was desperate for cash, he asked Rev. Kennedy if he’d buy the deed for the Echo Theater for $1,000. Kennedy agreed, and that’s how an African-American pastor came to own a KKK shop. And that’s when the drama really started.
In 2006, Howard tried to sell the building, either not knowing or not caring it actually belonged to Kennedy. Hoping to stop the old racist, Kennedy sued Howard in 2008, sparking a four year legal battle over who rightfully owned the Echo Theater. During the long, grueling process, Kennedy’s church came under attack from local racists who left dead animals inside and nailed Confederate flags to the front doors. Finally, in 2012, a circuit judge ruled the theater rightfully belonged to the New Beginning Church… only they couldn’t kick Howard out. According to the deed, he could keep on selling his Klan robes and offensive T-shirts until the day he died. Of course, Howard is a sick man, and he might not be around much longer. And what does Kennedy plan on doing with the building once he can finally close down the Redneck Shop? Well, he says, “I think that the church would do good in that building.”
2. The KKK Neighborhood Watch
The citizens of Fairview Township in York County, Pennsylvania don’t have to worry about leaving their kids at home or locking their doors at night. Aside from the fact they have an extremely low crime rate, their neighborhoods are under the ever watchful eye of the Traditionalist American Knights, a KKK group based in Missouri. Lucky, lucky them.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvanians were dismayed to find leaflets declaring, “You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake!” Chances are good the flyers had the exact opposite effect, especially on anyone who wasn’t white, Protestant, or native born. Of course, the Knight’s leader, Frank Acona, claims his group isn’t “targeting any specific ethnicity.” They’re just concerned about all the recent car break-ins and aim to put a stop to it. To make things hard on the criminals, Acona’s men will give up their hoods in exchange for everyday clothing. This way, the crooks will never know which ugly, bucktoothed, unshaven white guy hanging around the neighborhood is a Klansman.
But why would the Klan want to form a watch group? Well, they need as much publicity as they can get. Whereas they once were nearly four million men strong, today the Klan boasts less than four thousand members. Groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) believe the Klan is desperate to recruit fresh troops and hopes crazy schemes will draw in new blood. However, there’s one last question… why aren’t they wearing their robes? According to the ADL, it’s because they’re not really patrolling the streets. As the Pennsylvania chapter of the Traditionalist American Knights probably has less than fifty members, they don’t have enough men to actually watch out for crooks. And that’s just fine with the folks of Fairview Township.
1. The KKK Tried To Start Their Own Country
Michael Perdue was a loser with big dreams. A Texas convict with Nazi ties, Perdue wanted what everyone wants — to conquer the island of Dominica and establish his own little empire. It was 1980, and the little nation had only been independent from Great Britain for two years. They didn’t have an army, and their newly created police force wasn’t exactly a top notch crime fighting agency. With enough money and the right men, Perdue figured staging a coup would be easiest thing in the world. He was wrong.
The plan involved returning the recently deposed Dominican Prime Minister, Patrick John, to power. In exchange, John would give Perdue the right to export lumber and open a casino. The Texan also planned to start a lucrative cocaine operation and become rich beyond his wildest dreams. (Unbeknownst to Perdue, John actually planned on killing him once his position was restored.) With a puppet dictator in place and financial backing from Canadian mobsters, Perdue visited David Duke, the recently retired Grand Wizard of the Knights of the KKK. Duke thought the idea sounded great but was smart enough not to get directly involved. Instead, he agreed to help Perdue rent a boat and suggested several Klansman who might like to invade an island populated by black people.
With Duke’s help, Perdue was able to assemble a team of ten mercenaries, almost all of whom were either Klansmen or Neo-Nazis. In fact, one of the gunmen was none other than Don Black, the current Grand Wizard of the Knights of the KKK. After nicknaming their little mission “Operation Red Dog,” the group armed themselves with thirty-three guns, twenty sticks of dynamite, several blasting caps, and five thousand bullets. In addition to their weapons, they also brought along Nazi flags, Confederate flags, and plenty of whiskey. Their plan was to set sail from Louisiana, invade the island, and seize the armory and police station. It seemed like a solid plan, but they didn’t count on the charter boat captain. When he learned about Perdue’s plans, he immediately notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
What happened next sounds like a scene from a crazy comedy. On the night the mercenaries were to set sail, they met with undercover ATF agents posing as sailors. The officers loaded Perdue’s private army into the back of a van, explaining they’d drive them to the boat. Only when the doors were finally opened, the halfwit army found themselves staring down the barrel of forty SWAT team machine guns. “You’re not going to Dominica,” a voice epically boomed. “You’re going to jail!” Unfortunately, David Duke escaped prosecution due to a lack of evidence, but the rest of the nutty gang was found guilty of conspiracy and violation of the Neutrality Act. And while they never established their Ku Klux Kingdom, the “Bayou of Pigs” incident lives on as a tribute to true Klan stupidity.