If you’re a SCIFI.radio fan, you probably already know that 1940’s adventure radio serial The Adventures of Superman plays every day right here on our station – but starting today is a special story called Clan of the Fiery Cross. It’s a sixteen episode story that has a surprising origin.
The Second World War happened in the middle of the production run of The Adventures of Superman. The stories in this wildly popular radio serial served as a source of inspiration for our men and women in battle, and helped to remind us of the good in all of us. But after the war, Superman had an important role to play in defeating an actual, real world menace!
In the years following World War II, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a huge resurgence. Its membership and political influence were skyrocketing, and their racist agenda combined with their growing power were beginning to threaten the very fabric of American civilization. A young writer and activist named Stetson Kennedy went undercover to get the goods on the group. He almost sounds like a superhero himself, doesn’t he? With a name like Stetson Kennedy, you’d expect some heroics – and he delivered. He worked his way into the confidences of the KKK, and learned the organization’s deepest secrets. When he went to the authorities, though, they weren’t interested. The Klan had ties to police and the government, and had become so powerful and intimidating that police didn’t want to go anywhere near the situation. Determined to take the wind out of the KKK’s sails, Kennedy went to the writers of the Adventures of Superman radio serial.
With the war over and the Nazis no longer a threat, the producers needed a new threat for Superman to face. The KKK fit the bill perfectly. In Clan of the Fiery Cross, the writers of the radio serial pitted the Man of Steel against the men in white hoods. As the story line unfolded, the shows exposed many of the KKK’s most guarded secrets. From code words to rituals, the mystique of the Klan had been completely stripped away. It was the equivalent of one of those dreams where you’re in school, but you’ve forgotten your pants. Within two weeks their recruitment had dropped to zero, and their membership started dwindling. The power of the KKK in North America was broken, and we had Superman to thank for it.
With the new rise of the Ku Klux Klan, these stories seem important again. Superman in the radio serials stood for truth, justice, and decency in the most basic sense: decency to other human beings. This is our planet. There isn’t any room for hate groups, like ISIL or Westboro Baptist Church, or the Ku Klux Klan. We don’t need to be Superman to take on these threats to the very fabric of our society, but a little inspiration always helps.
Tune in every day to listen as this historical radio serial unfolds. It’s on every day at 6 p.m. PST, and 10:00 GMT.
It’s a fascinating look at our own history, and a reminder that every one of us can stand tall against the forces of hate and injustice, and win.
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