Musician Daryl Davis may have been better known for his career playing blues, but in his conversations with Klu Klux Klan members, over 200 individuals have converted from the white supremacist organization.
Daryl Davis grew up in the family of an American diplomat, spending much of his childhood abroad in multicultural communities and schools, a sharp juxtaposition to the segregated or newly integrated schools during the Civil Rights movement.
According to The Montgomery County Sentinel, “Davis said there would always be a culture shock when he would return to the United States and his classes would either be segregated or newly integrated.” In 1974, one of Daryl Davis’ teachers invited a leader of the American Nazi party to speak in his class, which Davis says is the first time he encountered the term “race war”.
Since 1982, Davis has spent years traveling the company as a musician, and during that time, he has spoken with and befriended many Klu Klux Klan members. Arguably one of his greatest successes was the conversion of Roger Kelly. “He no longer believes today what he said,” The Atlantic quotes Daryl.
“And when he quit the Klan he gave me his robe and hood, which is the robe of the Imperial Wizard.”
The Imperial Wizard is the national leader of the Knights of the KKK.
One of those KKK members Davis befriended was Scott Shephard, a former Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon, and while not a “convert” of Daryl, he is a good friend of the man. Davis reached out to Shephard for his new film, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis Race & America, a documentary focusing on Davis’ work to reach out to Klan members.
And Daryl Davis success speaks for itself. He has a garage filled with robes of former KKK members who gave him the apparel of their former lives. Davis has no intention of throwing away the robes. He believes it is important to remember history, even the parts a country may be ashamed of.
Oddly enough, Davis has come under fire from some members of the African-American community for his endeavors. As reported by The Atlantic, Davis claimed the following.
“I had one guy from an NAACP branch chew me up one side and down the other, saying, you know, we’ve worked hard to get ten steps forward. Here you are sitting down with the enemy having dinner, you’re putting us twenty steps back.”
“I pull out my robes and hoods and say, ‘look, this is what I’ve done to put a dent in racism. I’ve got robes and hoods hanging in my closet by people who’ve given up that belief because of my conversations sitting down to dinner. They gave it up. How many robes and hoods have you collected?’ And then they shut up.”
Davis’ work to combat racism has been a lifelong endeavor. It was a journey started when Daryl asked himself why someone could hate him if they did not know him. His quest for the answer has led him to Klan members’ homes and rallies. Davis has proven that conversation, a genuine conversation between two people, is an effective tool in combating racism.
The 2016 presidential election has been beset with race issues, whether accusations that only racists would vote for Trump or the numerous race-oriented hate crimes, vandalisms, and such at schools or churches following the elections results.
Daryl Davis’ documentary is expected to be available in early January 2017 for streaming. It certainly seems as if it may be worth a look.
So what are your thoughts on Daryl Davis’ outreach to the Klu Klux Klan? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]