Blues musician Daryl Davis has spent more than three decades befriending members of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, resulting in around 200 people leaving the racist organization.
Davis, a 58-year-old African-American from Chicago, said he set out to ask the question how people could hate him without even knowing him, Daily Mail reported.
He wrote about his experiences in his 2011 book, "Klan-Destine Relationships: A Black Man's Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan" and his story has been told in a 2016 feature documentary, "Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America."
Davis acknowledged his profession helped him at times.
“Music absolutely played a massive role in bridging many gaps in the racial divides I would encounter. Once when I was performing in a predominantly white venue, a white man approached me on my break and put his arm around me and exclaimed, 'This is the first time I've ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis,’” Davis said.
“I quickly enlightened him as to the origin of Jerry Lee's music and told him that Jerry Lee had learned that style from black Boogie Woogie and blues piano players,” added Davis.
Davis even collects the ceremonial robes of former KKK members.
The musician explained that he was inspired by his father.
“I think the embryo for this strategy has always been with me because I grew up as the child of U.S. diplomats, so it was my father's job to be overseas in foreign countries bettering relationships with foreign governments. I simply have now applied it in my own country to people who may not necessarily have good relationships between the races,” he told KPCC.
Davis has not always managed to avoid violence during his efforts.
“There have been some incidents in which I was threatened and a couple of instances where I had to physically fight. Fortunately, I won in both instances,” Davis said.
Davis’ meeting with one KKK grand dragon in Maryland resulted in the man leaving the organization and the local branch effectively closing down.
But not everyone approves of Davis’ efforts.
“Not all, but most of the criticism has come from black people. I have been called a 'sellout,' 'Uncle Tom,' 'Oreo' and a number of other terrible names,” said Davis.
He had a strong message for his critics.
“Unfortunately, I must compare these particular black people with the KKK and other white supremacist groups, with no distinction, other than the [color] of their skin,” he said.