CNN US News

African-American, KKK wizard
forge unlikely friendship

Davis and Kelly

June 30, 1996
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Carl Rochelle

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- At a time of intensifying ethnic stress, Daryl Davis, an African-American, and Ku Klux Klan wizard Roger Kelly have reached across a deep divide to form an unlikely friendship.

Davis began attending Ku Klux Klan gatherings several years ago while interviewing Kelly for a book.

And now, he's welcome at those rallies. He has attended KKK demonstrations and recruiting events, but is not allowed to attend cross-burnings.


Klan speaker

At a recent rally in Clairmont, Maryland, the Klan had a tough day as residents rejected their message of white separatism with some amusement. (1.6M QuickTime movie)

As a Klan member made her shrill plea for racial hatred, residents of Clairmont attempted to drown out her voice by singing. It was a gesture of rejection that angered Kelly.

"I got more respect for this black man than I do for you white n-----s out there," Kelly said angrily.

Davis says he is trying to bridge the gap that stems from ignorance and a fear of the unknown.

Kelly and his Klan friends go to hear Davis and his band, and Davis thinks his presence at the Klan rallies promotes badly needed understanding.

"I sat on the front row and I listened to each Klansman speak, some things I agreed with, some things I did not agree with," Davis said.

And despite the Klan's espousal of racial segregation, Kelly did not hesitate at one rally to proclaim his respect for Davis.

Kelly points out Davis

"I would follow that man to hell and back because I believe in what he stands for," Kelly said. "We don't agree on everything, but at least he respects me to sit down and listen and I respect him."

Regardless of their friendship, both men have been able to tenaciously maintain their views of each other's group.

"I believe in separation of the races," said Kelly. "I believe that's in the best interest of all races. We get to know one another and we do different things. You know it hasn't changed my views about the Klan because my views on the Klan (have) been pretty much cemented in my mind."

And Davis has his own views, as well.

"I think I've found a friend," Davis said. "As Roger said, many of his views have not changed on the Klan, and I have my views on the Klan, (but) I certainly have learned a lot."

But Davis has no illusions about the Klan and its doctrines. And if he did, his friend Kelly would be quick to disabuse them.


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