D.L. Chandler

Black Musician Befriends KKK Members, Collects Hoods [PHOTOS]


The white nationalist organization Ku Klux Klan once boasted millions of members in the early 20th Century, but their numbers are much smaller these days. Daryl Davis, a Black musician who befriends KKK members, may share some responsibility in the group’s shrinking membership.

Davis, a “boogie woogie” piano player, has played with a long list of celebrities across musical genres, including Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and others. Despite his remarkable musical journey, Davis made a mark in an entirely different way back in 1983 when he met with a Klansman after a set he performed in an all-white lounge as reported by the Las Vegas Guardian.

From the Guardian:

“He came up to me and said he liked my piano playing,” says Davis, “then he told me this was the first time he heard a black man play as well as Jerry Lee Lewis.” Davis, somewhat amused, explained to the man: “Jerry Lee learned to play from black blues and boogie woogie piano players and he’s a friend of mine. He told me himself where he learned to play.” At first, Davis says, the man was skeptical that Jerry Lee Lewis had been schooled by black musicians, but Davis went on to explain in more detail. “He was fascinated,” says Davis, “but he didn’t believe me. Then, he told me he was a Klansman.”

Eight years later, Davis would seek out the Klansman and asked him for a connection for the KKK leader in Maryland. Davis was embarking on writing a book about his experiences with racism and his encounters with Klan members, hoping to build a bridge between he and the vilified group. A native of the state, Davis met with leader Roger Kelly and the pair had a tense discussion with a menacing bodyguard present the entire time.

However, Davis and Kelly became friends and slowly, other Klan members would leave the organization based on their friendship with the piano player. Davis made a practice of collecting the hoods and robes of those who left the KKK, and doesn’t necessarily have a problem with the group’s existence.

“I respect someone’s right to air their views whether they are wrong or right,” said Davis. You have to address what’s in the person head and in their heart.”

Davis’ book Klan-Destine Relationships is available now. Davis also delivers lectures on race relations and has an extensive touring schedule as well.

Check out photos of Davis over the course of his career and the hoods he’s collected on the following pages.

Photos: Daryl Davis

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Comment Comments: 6 Tags Tags: racism, kkk, ku klux klan, blues

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  • Tony__Bologna

    this man looks like a black white guy… espeically on thumbnail 7

  • Run

    If this is true, he needs to talk to Spike Lee about producing and directing the movie.

    Having said that, this story seems like BS. Klansmen hate black men. Davis “respects” their right to believe in the lynching of black men?

    That’s nuts! There’s nothing a klansman can say or do to make me respect him.

    • Eric Wilson

      It is true, and the message isn’t respecting their right to lynch black men, it’s opening a line of communication to break down bridges of misconceptions and passed down generational hatred. When those lines of communications are built and misconceptions destroyed, people can become friends instead of enemies. Which is better- To create friendships and understanding, or to hate people who hate you without ever finding out why?

      • Run

        There’s no line of communication that would justify wasting his time and words on these racist pieces of filth. They joined the KKK, which means they are too far gone. Loving one’s enemy is about the dumbest, most dysfunctional thing a man can do. If they want to reform, they can do it on their own.

      • Eric Wilson

        If they were too far gone, then he wouldn’t have had any success. Hating someone because they hate you is like trying to put out a forest fire with a blow torch, it’s going to do nothing except carry it over to the next generation. From what I’ve seen he’s gotten 8 people so far to quit the KKK, that’s 8 families that he has changed and countless numbers of people in future generations who he has had a direct impact on. MLK talked about building bridges of communication, talked about peace and love between all people. In my opinion Daryl Davis is just carrying on with that same message.

  • Lavonte Tay-loc Hinchen

    How is the kkk considered a nationalist organization and not a gang like how they call the crips and boolds and ect. Gangs?