Chicago blues musician Daryl Davis is determined to win over racists with friendship and kindness, and he says that his method has already convinced 25 men to leave the KKK.
The documentary Accidental Courtesy, which premiered at the SXSW festival this week, follows his journey, even showing Davis standing alongside people in white robes and hoods.
“I try to bring out the humanity in people,” he told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “We all are human beings at the end of the day.”
Davis said that his journey began in 1983 when he played a Country and Western set in an all-white lounge. A white man approached him and said that he had never heard a black man play as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Davis responded by saying that he knew Lewis and that Lewis had been trained by black men.
“He was fascinated,” Davis told Guardian Liberty Voice, “but he didn’t believe me. Then, he told me he was a Klansman.”
Eventually, the man, Roger Kelly, an ‘Imperial Wizard’ and the KKK’s leader in Maryland, struck up a friendship with Davis that ultimately led to him giving up his role in the Klan and handing his robes over the Davis.
Davis kept the robes, along with about 20 others from other men that he has successfully reached out to, as proof that what he is doing is having an effect.
“You’re going to be on one side, somebody’s going to be on the other side,” Davis said at a SXSW screening. “Invite those people to the table. Sit down and talk. Because when two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.”
“They may be yelling and screaming or pounding the table, but at least they’re talking, they’re not fighting.”
You can check out an interview Davis did with CNN back in 2012, below.