The extraordinary story of the friendship between African American reverend David Kennedy and Michael Burden, a Grand Wizard in the KKK, goes to the heart of the strand in American life that voted in Trump.
For all its quaint, small-town charm, Laurens, South Carolina, has a troubled history. A town of bleak unemployment and poverty, it has a dark legacy of race riots and lynching. Its resistance to rolling back Apartheid-type laws was so fierce that federal military intervention was required.
In March 1996, Michael Burdens opened up a new business: The Redneck Shop and KKK Museum. It was a fiery African American preacher, David Kennedy, who led the protests against it yet it was also Kennedy who, in Burden's hour of need, extended the hand of friendship and charity to him and his family. From there, an unlikely friendship sprang.
Burden is a moving portrayal of this friendship, and the rocky path towards it. But it goes beyond just these two men. As a town, Laurens reflects the America that voted in Donald Trump. Courtney Hargrave provides a thoughtful and insightful exploration of Laurens and its inhabitants, examining both the deep fractures and troubles at its heart and the hope, warmth and humanity.
Courtney Hargrave is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. She resides in New York City.