, one of the pioneer folklore collectors
during the first half of the twentieth century
, was born in Jacksonville, Florida
. As a teenager
he began collecting Cracker
folksay material while he was collecting "dollar down and dollar a week" accounts for his father, a furniture merchant. He left the University of Florida
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
Kennedy's first book, Palmetto Country, appeared in 1942 as a volume in the American Folkways Series edited by Erskine Caldwell. Of it, folklorist Alan Lomax has said, "I very much doubt that a better book about Florida folklife will ever be written." To which Kennedy's self-described "stud buddy" Woody Guthrie added, "gives me a better trip and taste and look and feel for Florida than I got in the forty-seven states I've actually been in body and tramped in boot."
In the aftermath of WWII Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and other racist/terrorist groups, and he subsequently authored a number of books dealing with human rights, including The Klan Unmasked, Southern Exposure, Jim Crow Guide, and After Appomattox: How the South Won the War, some of which have been widely translated into foreign languages.
Woody Guthrie wrote a song "Stetson Kennedy" that extolled his virtues as a possible write-in candidate for President.
For more information, see http://www.stetsonkennedy.net