As Twitter erupted with accusations that “Office” star Ellie Kemper was a KKK princess for her participation in a 1999 debutante ball, a deeper dive into the elite St. Louis group at the center of the story revealed any number of celebrity connections, many of them African-American.
As the Daily Wire previously reported, the Veiled Prophet organization barred black membership from its 1878 founding until 1979, but it has no known connection to the KKK and had been integrated for 20 years by the time Kemper was crowned the “Queen of Love and Beauty” at age 19.
The accusations of “racism” stem from the wealth and influence of the group’s members and the fact that one of its original founders was Confederate officer Alonzo Slayback. A 2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the Veiled Prophet events, which include a ball and a parade, this way: “The prophet crowns a queen every year; their last names include Kemper, Busch, Danforth, Schnuck, Schlafly, Chouteau, Cabanne, Niedringhaus, Desloge and other historic St. Louis families.”
The group split the two events in 1992, moving the ball to the Friday before Christmas, while the parade received a name change to Fair St. Louis and a new date of July 4th weekend. However, both are still funded and hosted by the Veiled Prophet organization. This raises the question of whether Twitter, aided by numerous media reports, plans to publicly lambaste other celebrities with connections to the event.
Forbes reported on the political figures the elite dance has drawn in the past, saying, “Kemper, who comes from a wealthy mid-western family, isn’t the first high-profile individual to have participated in the ball however, a fact largely not circulating on social media. In fact, Margaret Truman, daughter of former President Harry S. Truman, a Missouri native, had previously been a guest of the Veiled Prophets as had former President Grover Cleveland and his wife.”
One high-profile figure Forbes didn’t name: famed feminist and founder of Berkeley’s Women’s History Research Center, Laura X (born Laura Rand Orthwein). X, who launched National Women’s History Month and helped revive International Women’s Day, received the same honor as Kemper in 1959.
A list of past performers at Fair St. Louis features an extensive array of stars who have taken part in the festivities much more recently, including many black artists: Ella Fitzgerald (1980), Dionne Warwick (1982), Harry Belafonte (1983), Ray Charles (1985), the Four Tops (1990), Smokey Robinson (1991), Patti LaBelle (2001), Kool and the Gang (2015), and Flo Rida (2016).
Pop star Elton John performed at the parade in 1982, entering in a “veil” of his own. Police smuggled him into the event disguised as an officer.
In 1987, ABC aired a special on the fair hosted by Oprah Winfrey.
The ball wasn’t held in 2020 due to the pandemic, but in 2019 black R&B artist Keith Sweat headlined.
The year Kemper was crowned queen of the event that is now threatening her career, Dionne Warwick, Hootie and the Blowfish, and The Temptations performed.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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