A Guide to His Papers at Georgia State University
University Georgia State University Special Collections and Archives 100 Decatur St., SE Atlanta, GA 30303-3202 404-413-2880 Fax: 404-413-2881 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Stetson Kennedy papers
7 linear feet
Kennedy's career as an author began in
the 1930s when he worked as both a writer and an editor on the Federal Writers
Project guide to Florida. The Papers, 1933-1981, of Stetson Kennedy comprise
correspondence; subject files on various organizations, individuals, and ideas;
typescripts of articles written by Kennedy; newsclippings; press releases;
bulletins and fliers; pamphlets; periodicals; and photographs. Anyone
interested in primary source material on the pioneering struggles to introduce
unionization, civil rights, and socio-economic-political progress to the South
during the Great Depression, WW II, and the decade which followed will find
this extensive collection highly rewarding.
Series VII: Literary Production, 1935-1946, undated
Series VIII: Miscellaneous, 1935-1979, undated
Series IX: Pamphlets, 1936-1972, undated
Scope and Content of the Papers
The Papers, 1933-1981, of Stetson Kennedy comprise correspondence;
subject files on various organizations, individuals, and ideas; typescripts of
articles written by Kennedy; newsclippings; press releases; bulletins and
fliers; pamphlets; periodicals; and photographs. The subject files pertain to
economic conditions, labor and anti-black violence, peace groups, peonage,
Southern politicians, Mexico, the Spanish Civil War, and Kennedy's own campaign
for a U.S. Senate seat from Florida in 1950. Articles, clippings, and pamphlets
concern civil rights, international affairs, the Ku Klux Klan, labor
(particularly CIO) organizing, and southern politics. The photographs depict
WPA work in progress, attacks against Negroes (including lynching), and various
organizations. The many periodicals include two issues (1947) of Eugene
Talmadge's The Statesman, twenty-one issues
(1943-1950) of The Southern Patriot, and eight
issues (1939-1943) of Lillian Smith's North Georgia
Review. The correspondence covers the period 1935-1979, and includes as
correspondents students and peace groups, several committees to aid Spanish
loyalists, social reform and civil liberties groups, government agencies,
writer's organizations, publishers, literary agents, newspapers and magazines,
and the New York Public Library, which obtained some Kennedy manuscripts for
its Schomburg Collection in 1952. [L1979-37]
New accessions added to the Papers of Stetson Kennedy over the years
have expanded the materials to include: the typescript for the unpublished
manuscript The Four Freedoms Down South by Stetson
Kennedy [L1983-10]; a videocassette tape of an interview with Kennedy on "Tony
Brown's Journal" [L1985-04]; additional correspondence, press releases,
newsclippings, articles, information on Kennedy's campaign in Florida for a US
Senate seat, typescript by George Johnston concerning his 1947 labor organizing
efforts, photographs relating to Johnston's labor organizing work, typescript
by James A. Schnur on the conditions of African Americans in Florida during
World War II, audiotapes of an oral history interview of Kennedy conducted by
Ralph Peters in 1983 [L1987-38 and L1996-11]; the unpublished dissertation
Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural
Advocacy by Peggy Bulger [1992-15]; the videocassette of Stetson
Kennedy's honorary doctorate presentation from the University of North Florida
on August 5, 1994 and Joyce Kennedy's birthday tribute in 1994 [L1995-10].
Biography of Stetson Kennedy
Stetson Kennedy was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1916. He
attended the University of Florida, the New School for Social Research, and the
University of Paris.
Kennedy's career as an author began in the 1930s when he worked as
both a writer and an editor on the Federal Writers Project guide to Florida.
The affiliation made there led to an invitation to write the Florida volume in
the American Folkways series, edited by Erskine Caldwell. This volume, Palmetto
Country (1942), established Kennedy's reputation as an authority on the
traditions and culture of his home state.
His next book, Southern Exposure (1946),
was an expose of the social and political inequities of the South in the
mid-20th century. Later, he continued his crusade with I
Rode With the Ku Klux Klan (1954) and Jim Crow
Guide to the U.S.A. (1959). (Kennedy had infiltrated the Klan as an
agent of the state of Georgia.)
As an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 1950,
Kennedy ran on a "Total Equality" ticket, and finished last. From 1952 through
1960, Kennedy lived and traveled in Europe, Asia, and Africa. His interest in
communism led him behind the Iron Curtain, where he lived and worked for three
years, primarily in Hungary. He emerged, disenchanted, as a refugee in
Upon his return to the United States, Kennedy remained active in the
civil rights and peace movements as a writer and lecturer. At various times he
has contributed articles to the New York Times,
the New York Post, Saturday Review, Nation, New
Republic, and other periodicals in the U.S. and abroad. The author of
the column "Inside Out" syndicated by the Federated Press from 1937 to 1950,
Kennedy also wrote a column "Up Front Down South," for the
Pittsburgh Courier in the 1960s.
Kennedy joined the federal anti-poverty program in Miami in 1965, and
later became the assistant director.
Description of the Stetson Kennedy Papers
Anyone interested in primary source material on the pioneering
struggles to introduce unionization, civil rights, and socio-economic-political
progress to the South during the Great Depression, WW II, and the decade which
followed will find this extensive collection highly rewarding.
Born in 1916 in Jacksonville, Florida, Stetson Kennedy was engaged in
those struggles--fulltime and overtime--as writer, activist, and undercover
agent. He also served as self-appointed archivist, taking it upon himself to
collect and preserve, over a half century, documents reflecting the contest
between progress and reaction in the South.
Kennedy's own prescription for progress called for working people to
arm themselves with a ballot in one hand, and a union card in the other. His
Papers reflect such labor-related experiences as organizing the unemployed into
the Workers Alliance during the Depression, serving as southeastern editorial
director of the CIO's PAC during "Operation Dixie," authoring a column "Inside
Out" that was widely syndicated by labor papers, testimony as an expert witness
before the Senate Labor Committee on union-busting by the KKK and on peonage in
the U.S. before the U.N. Committee on Forced Labor in Geneva, as well as
membership in the American Newspaper Guild.
Since racism long served as a major means of keeping Southern labor
unorganized and cheap, and social justice and political democracy in the region
at a low ebb, much of Kennedy's lifework has been focused upon segregation and
discrimination, and this too is reflected in his Papers. In this he worked
closely with such organizations as the Southern Conference for Human Welfare,
NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, Southern Regional Council, and Highlander Folk
School. First on his own initiative, and later as an undercover agent for the
Georgia Department of Law under Gov. Ellis Arnall, he joined the KKK and a
score of other "home-grown, Southern-style" terrorist groups, and the evidence
he gathered was instrumental in curbing their growth and putting some of their
leaders behind bars. Much of this evidence is to be found among his Papers, and
still other documents, placed earlier with the Schomburg Collection of the N.Y.
Public Library, are available on microfilm.
The collection also contains materials related to a variety of
national and international causes to which Kennedy was committed as a sponsor
and activist. These include an Intercollegiate Peace Council he organized prior
to WW II (the first interracial organization of college students in the South),
picketing of scrap iron shipments to Japan, and fund-raising for medical aid
for the Spanish Republican Army.
Out of Kennedy's investigations and activism have come a number of
books, including his Palmetto Country, Southern Exposure,
I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow Guide
to the USA. Raw materials and early drafts of these works are to be
found in his Papers, as are his "Up Front Down South" columns for the black
press, and investigative reportage for the newspaper PM,
The New Republic, The Nation, and other journals. Included too is a
documentary record of his 1950 campaign as an independent write-in candidate
for the U.S. Senate from Florida, on a platform of "total equality" (he was
arrested at the polls). Also of special interest is correspondence from one of
Kennedy's close friends, that "bard of the working man," Woody Guthrie.
These Papers consist of a wide variety of materials, including
manuscripts, notes, inside reports of terrorist meetings, flyers, posters,
brochures, correspondence, hate sheets, photographs, news clippings, and
In range of subject matter they constitute a veritable encyclopaedia
of the problems which beset the South during that transitional epoch.
On the labor front, there were regional and racial wage differentials
to contend with, discriminatory freight rates which kept industry out, company
towns, the KKK telling the CIO "we will fight horror with horror," and progress
being measured in terms of "At first they used to kill you for trying to
organize a union; now they just knock all your teeth out."
At the outset, the bastions of white supremacy were virtually
unchallenged. No black could vote in a Democratic primary in the South, and
very few dared vote at all. There was not one black fireman or policeman below
the Mason-Dixon Line, much less any black office-holders. Blacks seldom sat on
juries, even Federal ones. Jim Crow reigned over all, including interracial
In the countryside, poor whites as well as blacks were caught in the
toils of illiteracy, peonage, the commissary, share-cropping, tenant farming,
and the cash-crop ("let `em eat cotton") system. Rural homes generally lacked
screens, lights, running water, and pellagra, hookworm, dengue and malaria were
Lynchings and massacres took place periodically; the penal system was
characterized by the chaingang, sweatbox, and convict lease system; and the
polltax and black disfranchisement enabled Southern bourbons to dominate both
houses of Congress and pollute the Congressional Record with their racist
The Stetson Kennedy Papers chronicle the early struggles to change all
that, and serve to point up what has and has not yet been accomplished.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the
Georgia State University Library online catalog (GIL). Researchers desiring
materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog
using these headings.
Ku Klux Klan.
African Americans-- Civil
African Americans-- Crimes
Authors and publishers--
Labor unions-- Organizing.
Civil rights-- United
Labor movement-- Southern
Peace movements-- Southern
Peonage-- Southern States.
Florida-- Politics and
Spain-- History-- Civil
periodicals, and journalism.
Southern States-- Labor--
Population elements-- African Americans.
Restrictions on Access
The Stetson Kennedy Papers are available to researchers in the form of
preservation photocopies. Access to originals is restricted; consult Southern
Labor Archivist. Oversize materials are stored offsite; allow 24 hours for
retrieval. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any
publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection,
the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical
property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from
this collection should consult the labor archivist to determine copyright
holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must
contain the complete citation to the original.
1. The book manuscript The Four Freedoms Down
South (1943, unpublished) is not to be published as such without the
prior written consent of the author, his heirs or assigns.
2. The unpublished book manuscript by the late Witherspoon Dodge is
not to be published as such without the prior written consent of his heirs, if
such can be found, or Stetson Kennedy if no heirs of the author can be
3. No collection of the articles, newspaper columns, reportage, poems
or other manuscripts by Stetson Kennedy is to be published without the prior
written consent of the author, his heirs or assigns.
[item], [folder title], [series title], Stetson Kennedy Papers,
[accession number], Southern Labor Archives. Special Collections and Archives,
Georgia State University, Atlanta.
Purchased from Stetson Kennedy, 1979.
Related materials in other repositories:
Stetson Kennedy Papers, University of South Florida--Tampa Library,
American Student Union, University of Florida Chapter Correspondence,
University of Florida Smathers Libraries--Special and Area Studies
Stetson Kennedy Collection, New York Public Library's Schomburg Center
for the Study of Black Culture
Related materials in this repository:
Georgia Government Documentation Project: Oral History Interviews
(Stetson Kennedy, Virginia Durr, Daniel Duke), Special Collections and
Archives, Georgia State University Library
Microfilm copy of the Stetson Kennedy Collection at Shomburg Center
Access copies of published works by Stetson Kennedy held in the
general collection through the University Library's online catalogue.
Additional biographical files are available in the Reading Room.
Stetson Kennedy documentary film project records. Consult the Labor
Separated material: During processing,
artifacts, oversize and printed material was separated to the Southern Labor
Archives Periodical, Photograph, and Oversize Collections. Oral history tapes
were separated to the Southern Labor Archives Sound Recording Collection. Video
recordings were separated to the Southern Labor Archives Video Recording
Collection. See List of Separated Material following Detailed Description of