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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan (Guess who wins?)

Bowers, Rick (2012) Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan:  The True story of how the iconic superhero battled the men of hate.New York:  Scholastic
In 1946 World War II was over, comic books in general and Superman in particular were riding the tallest wave of popularity they had ever experienced, the writers of the Superman radio show were looking for a new villain for Superman to fight (now that Hitler was vanquished and the Japanese had surrendered, and the Ku Klux Klan was experiencing a resurgence of membership, courtesy of anti-black and anti-Semitist hate-mongering.  The writers of the show made a momentous decision.  Superman would take on the KKK.
Bowers begins this story by telling about the origins of Superman (he was invented by two Jewish kids) and the origins of the Klan.  It isn't until well past half-way through the book that we get to the part about the radio show.  But that really doesn't matter because the story is fascinating.  Bowers makes the argument that the Superman radio show which got number one ratings during its prime time airing, raised awareness and turned public opinion against the Klan and was responsible for crippling their membership, cutting into their finances, and effectively ending them as a viable organization.
This informational book (common core bonus points) would be excellent for classroom libraries from middle school through high school.  It might work well as a trade book for social studies classes.  Bowers is fairly transparent about where he got his information and this might be a good example of how historians, authors, and reporters dig into a story. English and language arts teachers might want to keep it on hand as well as it makes for fascinating non-fiction reading. 
This one is well worth checking out. 

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