Actress Elie Kemper issued an apology, Monday, for taking part in the Veiled Prophet Ball in 1999, after allegations surfaced on social media that the ball was affiliated with racists, sexists, and the Confederacy — with some Twitter commentators even going so far as to call Kemper a “KKK Princess” for attending the ball more than two decades ago.
Kemper noted, in her apology, posted to Instagram, that she did not know, in 1999, that the organization had a controversial history but admitted that “ignorance is no excuse.”
“When I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown. The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past,” Kemper said. I was not aware of this history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved. I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy. At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and my privilege, I am the beneficiary of a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”
“I believe strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness,” she added. “I try to live my life in accordance with these values. If my experience is an indication that organizations and institutions with pasts that fall short of these beliefs should be held to account, then I have to see this experience in a positive light. I want to apologize to the people I’ve disappointed, and I promise that moving forward I will listen, continue to educate myself, and use my privilege in support of the better society I think we’re capable of becoming.”
Kemper was crowned the “Queen of Love and Beauty” at the event in 1999. A Twitter user posted unearthed photos of Kemper wearing a white dress and long gloves — typical attire for a debutante ball — and claimed the event was “put on by our local KKK.” The allegation was repeated across social media. An activist coined the term “KKK princess” by tweeting that, “So…Ellie Kemper was a KKK princess??? And no one knew about it???”
Another film critic claimed Kemper had successfully hidden a racist past.
“It really is something that Ellie Kemper was the star of a tv show about a woman who leaves a racist cult and tries to rebrand herself while pretending it never happened. no reason why I’m bringing this up of course,” Slate’s Jon Negroni said on Twitter.
As the Daily Wire reported last week, however, it does not appear that the Veiled Prophet Ball has a connection to the KKK.
Now known as the Fair St. Louis, local business leaders established the Veiled Prophet Ball in 1878 to help the city compete with Chicago’s rapidly expanding commercial dominance and as a PR effort against striking workers. Inspired by the Irish poem “Lalla Rookh” by Thomas Moore and the revelries of Mardis Gras, the group invented a mythic society centered around a character known as the “Veiled Prophet of Khorassan,” a mystic traveler who would select the worthiest beauty from among the daughters of the city’s elite.
The event did not, however, admit black or Jewish attendees until 1979, according to Buzzfeed News, and “one of the brothers instrumental in the ball’s founding, was a former Confederate soldier,” per the Daily Wire’s report.
“Civil rights activists during the 1960s and 1970s famously picketed and protested the ball and parade organized by the Veiled Prophet — a group consisting of wealthy white elites cofounded in 1878 by a former Confederate officer,” Buzzfeed noted. “The group excluded Black and Jewish people until 1979.”
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