Join Date: May 2013
Rep Power: 30
Re: Four Voices of White Nationalism
Don Black, 64
As a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and the founder of Stormfront.org, the first major online forum for white nationalists, Don Black represents the older generation of a movement that has become increasingly young and internet-based.
Over the past five decades, Black’s controversial views have gotten him into legal trouble, created professional barriers, and alienated members of his family — most notably his son, Derek, who renounced white nationalism in 2013. Still, every time he’s considered giving it all up, Black finds himself coming back to the conclusion that “It’s the right thing to do. We’re right.”
Black offers unique insight on how the movement has — and hasn’t — changed since he first got involved in the 1960s, and where he sees it going next.
You grew up in Alabama, right?
I was born in north Alabama, near Huntsville, in Athens, Ala. After going to the University of Alabama, I moved to Birmingham. And I moved here, in West Palm Beach [Florida, where he currently lives] back in late ‘87.
What were your interactions with nonwhite people growing up?
In the town I grew up in, there wasn’t much racial tension. There was in Birmingham. I remember my daddy telling me we couldn’t go to the state fair this year “because the Negroes were causing trouble down there.”
My high school initially was all segregated, all the schools I went to, up until maybe junior high, was completely segregated. Then [former Alabama Governor] George Wallace introduced freedom of choice, so blacks that wanted to come to our high school could do so and the ones that wanted to stay in the all-black high school could do so.
So I never really saw full-scale integration of high school. The blacks that came to our high school were the ones that wanted to go to the white school and they didn’t cause trouble. We didn’t have trouble until the full-scale integration, which happened when I was a senior in high school.
[During the summer of 1970, before his senior year, Black was working on the gubernatorial campaign of segregationist and white supremacist J.B. Stoner when he was shot in the chest by a fellow Stoner campaign worker, Jerry Ray. Ray, the brother of James Earl Ray, who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr., was ultimately acquitted of shooting the teenaged Black, who he’d caught trying to steal membership records of Stoner’s National States Rights Party.]
I nearly died. My 17th birthday was three days into the hospital and my birthday present was getting taken off the critical list.
Anyway, I didn’t want to get into a big conflagration at my newly integrated high school, so I went to Huntsville, Ala., to Madison Academy, and that was pleasant. It was all white at the time. Not now, of course, but it was then.
Before you left your old high school, when it was partially segregated, did you have classes with any of the black students?
Yeah, we had black students, but they were all nicely behaved because they were the type that wanted a better education by going to the white school.
That was my high school experience. Of course, the University of Alabama had a contingent of blacks who were very — always tried to cause trouble with me. Just stuff like slamming the door in my face, stuff like that. They never actually challenged me to a fight or anything.
I had experiences with diversity in ensuing years. But initially, [his interest in white nationalism] was purely ideological. I started out as an anticommunist and was concerned about what I was seeing [in Alabama], even though I didn’t experience a lot of it directly.
In my little town … actually, everybody pretty much got along. I think we had maybe 10 or 15 percent black and, you know, they were, as my mother would call them and as all Southern mothers would call them, “the po’ old Negro that lived down the street,” that you felt sorry for, ’cause they worked hard and they didn’t have much and they didn’t cause any trouble. That was the Southern attitude.
Was that your attitude?
Pretty much, as far as where I lived. The neighborhoods were safe. When I was a little kid I could bicycle around town without having to worry. Could walk to school. There was never much crime. We literally were those people that didn’t have to lock their doors when they left home.
So your experiences with the black people in your neighborhood were never negative — you were just troubled by what you saw on the news happening other places?
Right, stuff like that. Of course, not being able to go to the state fair in Birmingham, stuff like that.
How old were you when you couldn’t go to the state fair?
10 or 11, and after that.
There was a lot of trouble in Birmingham. I would later live in Birmingham, but we didn’t go down there except for that annual state fair, which I really appreciated when I was a kid.
[The spring of 1963, when Black was 10 years old, saw the launch of the Birmingham Campaign, during which civil rights activists faced fire hoses and police attack dogs in response to peaceful protests against the city’s segregation laws with marches, lunch counter sit-ins, and boycotts.]
The Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Don Black, in 1982,
wearing a suit and tie, with white-gowned Klan members in the background.
How did you first get your start in the white nationalist movement?
Many years before the internet, of course, back in the day, in 1969 when I was 15 years old, you actually had to find a mailing address and write. You know, the old-fashioned way. And a couple of weeks later they’d send you back a packet of literature.
Who did you write to?
There was the National Youth Alliance, that was actually the first. But Drew Pearson, who those of us my age would remember, he was a self-described columnist, muckraker. He wrote a series of articles about this sinister neo-Nazi movement which was thriving in the U.S. and they had influence in Congress and [prominent white supremacist and Holocaust denier] Willis Carto was the head of it. That piqued my interest. [An example of Pearson’s reporting is here]
I wrote the National Youth Alliance [a right-wing political organization also founded by Carto]. I found their address, they were in Washington, D.C., in Dupont Circle. I’d later visit them. I wrote to everybody, pretty much. I wrote to the National Socialist White People’s Party [previously known as the American Nazi Party], in Arlington, Va. I wrote to all kinds of people.
What about these groups sparked your interest? Were your parents proponents of these sorts of political views?
Not exactly. My parents were Southern conservative and I had become, by 14, anticommunist. I knew about groups like Liberty Lobby and the John Birch Society and the George Wallace for president campaign in 1968. I participated in that kind of peripherally, handing out bumper stickers in my hometown, stuff like that.
But I wasn’t completely convinced until I started writing to some of these groups. … I got the full story.
I grew up, of course, in Alabama and I thought the civil rights or so-called civil rights movement was tearing down the country and my state, so that motivated me to look further. By the time I was 15 I was looking further, and so I was interested in these other groups and what they had to say.
William Pierce [a physicist turned prominent white supremacist activist and author] impressed me because, for the previous few years, I had wanted to be a nuclear physicist and Pierce of course had been one of some accomplishment. He probably influenced me more than anybody.
[Black continued to pursue this path as he went to college, attempting to start a white student union at the University of Alabama, but failing to get a faculty adviser to sponsor him. His controversial activities earned him coverage in the campus newspaper, which, he said, impeded his progress in the military.]
I was in the basic ROTC program, and when I started making the campus newspaper, on the front of the campus newspaper, ROTC wanted to kick me out, even though they thought I was a good cadet. The professor of military science would even say that later I was a poster boy for them, but unfortunately I had all of these liabilities.
Later on I did enlist in the Army reserve.
When did you get involved in the Ku Klux Klan?
In ’75 I joined David Duke’s [Knights of the Ku Klux] Klan. I’d been reading about him, but I already knew him for years.
There’s actually a New York Times article about a rally that he held outside of Baton Rouge with, I think they said 2,700 people, which was huge by our standards, to actually get that many people to an indoor rally. So that piqued my interest, David’s accomplishing something.
[In fact, the 1975 Times article Black seems to be referencing states that, according to the FBI, Klan membership had dwindled from 17,000 in 1976 to only 1,700 across 15 Klan groups nationwide. Duke, then 24-year-old Grand Dragon of the Louisiana-based Knights of the KKK, reportedly disputed the FBI’s statistics, telling the Times, “We had almost 3,000 people at our rally in Walker, and most of them were members.”]
What was your impression of the Klan when you were younger, growing up in Alabama? Did you ever think you’d become a part of it?
No. We had a Klan Klavern in Athens that I had heard about, but I hadn’t considered joining because they just didn’t seem to have the intellectual wherewithal. I didn’t consider joining the Klan until I heard about David.
What was it about David Duke that appealed to you?
I knew David, I knew that he understood everything, and the fact that he was getting so many people at his rallies was impressive. So that’s the reason I went down and joined up with a couple of other friends, three other friends from Alabama, one of whom would become my wife later. And then ex-wife.
[Black’s current wife, Chloe, was previously married to Duke.]
What did your parents think about you joining the Klan?
They weren’t hostile. They had met David too, and they weren’t hostile but they thought it was a really bad idea for me to be getting all this attention. They thought it was dangerous.
They were never completely happy about it. My father was a little more accepting. They came over to our side, or my side, intellectually after a while. But they thought that it was, particularly my mother thought that it was dangerous in various ways, so she was never happy about that.
What about your siblings?
I have a big sister, 12 years older than me. She’s not exactly on our side but she’s … a Trump supporter.
[Over the next 12 years, Black gained prominence as a leader of the Alabama chapter of Duke’s Klan. In 1981, he and several other white supremacists were arrested by federal agents before embarking on a plot to invade the Caribbean island of Dominica by boat and violently overthrow its black-run government. Black spent three years in federal prison, where he learned the computer programming skills that would later help him create Stormfront.]
[Though he finally left the Klan in 1987, Black continued to work on Duke’s perennial political campaigns, even after relocating to West Palm Beach, Fla.]
I’ve lived here as long as I’ve lived anywhere, but I never intended to stay here.
I was going to stay here about five years and make my fortune and then move back to Alabama. But I didn’t make my fortune and so I’m still here. I’ve kind of given up on the fortune, actually.
[Black explains that he’d hoped to become a stock broker but failed to obtain his brokerage license, a decision he says was made by Florida’s “Jewish comptroller” based solely on his reputation and affiliation with David Duke. In lieu of work, Black says, “I devoted myself full-time to political activity.”]
I actually started Stormfront as a dial-up bulletin board shortly thereafter, in 1990. During one of the David Duke campaigns, the follow-up campaign when he was running for U.S. Senate, as a very small bulletin board.
White nationalist Don Black hosts the “Don Black Stormfront” radio show, July 3, 2015,
in West Palm Beach, Florida.
What were your initial traffic numbers?
About 500 a day. Back then it was [pretty good]. And that was without any kind of advertising, or not much. That was just from search engines.
What’s your membership now?
We get about 50,000 user sessions a day and there are over 300,000 registrations, most of which are not active, of course, but we have accumulated that many. So it’s still fairly active.
Of course, we were down for a month after Network Solutions [Stormfront’s domain registrar] decided that we were in violation of their terms of service for having the wrong political views. This was in the aftermath of Charlottesville.
I was finally able to wrestle it back from them but they had frozen it, they had locked it, I couldn’t get it back, couldn’t get the domain back initially. We’re kind of back to where we were, but not quite. We’re actually nowhere near back to where we were right after Charlottesville. We had a big spike — our traffic doubled after that.
Stormfront really popularized the term “white nationalism.” What does white nationalism mean to you?
It means racial, white racial nationalism, as opposed to civil nationalism such as what is promoted by Donald Trump and other groups. They disavow any kind of racial aspects to nationalism, but nationalism has traditionally been a racial movement.
Nationalism is not about diversity. It has racial underpinnings and we understand that and we think we have the right to maintain that, at least some portion of this country, as a white nation with a government that reflects the values of our race. Of course, other races feel they have that right, and they don’t come under all of the criticism that we do.
I’m very happy that after we used that term for so many years, whereas the mainstream media would always call us “white supremacists,” now suddenly “white nationalist” is almost as popular as “white supremacist.” I guess we can thank Hillary Clinton for that, back during the campaign.
For whatever reason, at least we’ve made a step upward. White nationalism is much more descriptive than white supremacist. Most people I know don’t consider themselves supremacists. Separatist, maybe, and nationalist.
What do you think about the term “alt-right”? Do you think it applies to you?
That’s a term popularized by Richard Spencer, whom I also know. He didn’t invent it, but he popularized it.
We’ve never used that term, although we’ll accept it. We’ll take it now.
Alt-right was considered a little too [inclusive ] a couple years ago. They had gay speakers. Richard Spencer had this guy [Jack] Donovan who’s openly gay, brags about it, which is just a little too inclusive for most of our people.
That’s kind of what we associated it with. It was not as hardcore ideologically. But now that it’s become popularized, we’ll take it, but we don’t use it very much.
It does take the edge off the racial terms, whether it’s “white supremacist” or “white nationalist.” Just the term “white” has become a term of derision nowadays. You can’t even use the term “white” without offending people. So alt-right, I guess, does have an advantage there. But it’s kind of ill-defined.
What do you think of the new generation of white nationalists, and the state of the movement in general right now?
I think we’re definitely making progress, and the alt-right, whatever it is, is part of that.
Does this stand out as a significant moment for white nationalism?
I think there are more people now involved than ever before. I don’t know about the ‘60s, back when I was just getting started. There were some fairly big meetings back then with other groups, like the National States Rights party and the Klan.
All of that went into rapid decline and by 1970 I thought we’d really hit the pits. I didn’t think it could get any worse, but it did.
Today it’s different. There are quite a few people … in Charlottesville, there were a lot of people there. More so than I think was reported.
Were you in Charlottesville?
No. I’m glad I wasn’t there too. I’m a little bit disabled now. I had a stroke 9 years ago, so I wouldn’t be much good in a fight.
Trump was absolutely right when —he was absolutely wrong because our people weren’t there to start a fight—but he was right when he said that the other side had people there that were violent. They were.
But even then, it’s a pretty big turnout. So we’re seeing more and more of that, and I think we’ll continue to see that.
What do you think is the reason for this recent resurgence?
Zeitgeist. It’s a sign of the times, the spirit of the age.
Of course, immigration motivates a lot of people. And of course Trump has inspired a lot of people.
What’s next for the white nationalist movement?
We want to go beyond Trump. Trump has been a disappointment for a lot of our people. He is, at least, raising awareness about immigration, to a degree. Even though it’s kind of a civic nationalist awareness of immigration. He thinks that it’s OK to bring in third world immigrants as long as they’re properly vetted. But he does want to end the diversity lottery, so he does give us a little bit of hope.
He has divided the country, which might be good.
We have never had a more racially polarized country than we do now. I mean, we have antifa [i.e., far-left-leaning militant groups] smashing things and beating up Trump supporters, and Trump supporters stockpiling guns. So I’m not sure who’s going to win.
Does that concern you?
I don’t want to be in the middle of it, that’s for sure. And I don’t want our family to be in the middle of it.
What would be the ideal outcome of all this?
I think separation will solve the problem. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to turn out, but as I said earlier, I think we have the right to have at least some part of the country that represents our people, our values. A government representing our agenda.
I think that will happen by, for lack of a better word, balkanization. I think our people are voting with their feet. They are moving to other parts of the country even though there’s not really a place to run right now, but there are some places. We’re not going to stay in south Florida much longer.
Where are you going to go?
East Tennessee. We already have family who’ve moved there and we’ve been holding our conferences there for seven years. We’ve had other people move there as well, so it’s one area.
There’s Harrison, Ark. We visited there recently, and we have friends who have lived there a long time. Similar type place, along with Branson, which is nearby.
The ethnostate, which is the term the alt-right likes to use now, and it’s legitimate, is the ultimate goal. I don’t know just how this is going to play out. It’s not going to come immediately, but I think it can come.
Do you think you’ll live to see the creation of an ethnostate?
Will I live to see it? Who knows. I don’t know how long I’m going to live. But I think it will likely happen.
White Nationalist Don Black at his home in West Palm Beach Florida, July 3, 2015