we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the 100th
anniversary of the founding of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, the inauguration of America’s first
black president, and Black History Month, it’s worth pondering the
question, “Who won the Civil War?”
November 20, 2002, I wrote in a Nashville newspaper that a relatively
new, taxpayer-funded, gun-toting statue honoring the founder of
the Ku Klux Klan should be removed. This founder had executed black
soldiers, along with women and children, instead of taking them
prisoner — the penalty for inciting slave insurrection, under Confederate
law, being death — and, under today’s laws, he would be given Eichmann’s
sentence, not a statue. (Click here
for full text of the Op/Ed piece in The Tennessean Newspaper)
came death threats. “Get a bodyguard or carry [a] gun,” wrote Christopher
Barwick, adding: “you will need it.”
Iraq,” wrote Jay and Pam Simms: “we should call in an air strike
on [Farley’s university] department.”
Maston said, “I hope someone kills and rapes your white, race-traitor
wife and/or girlfriend as well.”
Baum, head of the national Council of Conservative Citizens — the
“uptown Klan,” according The Nation Magazine’s John Nichols — attacked
me on National Public Radio; in an unsigned editorial, the Council
wrote, “Vanderbilt professor Johnathan Farley (sic) was educated
at Harvard and Oxford, but his simple-minded tirades … indicate
how low prestigious universities will stoop to dole out fancy degrees
to blacks … Let’s gather a mob.”
of defending me against such vitriol or remaining silent, my own
university, Vanderbilt, joined in on the attack. Both the head of
Vanderbilt, Gordon Gee, and the university spokesman, Michael Schoenfeld,
criticized me, the former calling me “volatile” and the latter an
extremist. At no point did either of these men utter one word of
criticism about the founder of the KKK, the Confederacy, or any
of the individuals or groups targeting me for defamation, termination,
hospitalization, or worse.
a Life Member, I went to the NAACP for help. The Nashville chapter
president, Ludye Wallace, agreed to write a letter of support, but
the very next day backed away, saying he did not want to be “out
there” like me. His successor as president, Sonnye Dixon, refused
to ask the local newspaper to stop publishing libel against me,
even though the articles could lead to death threats being issued
against anyone described as a supporter of mine – as happened to
Vanderbilt Black Student Alliance president Nia Toomer.
Gordon Gee had to call police for protection after a man threatened
to “cut [his] heart out.” One of Dixon’s successors as Nashville
NAACP president, Arnett Bodenhamer, and the latter’s assistant,
Tommie Morton-Young, would also do nothing.
head of the NAACP in the Southeast United States, Charles White,
was informed of the situation when it first erupted, but said the
NAACP could only consider the issue in three months. The NAACP Legal
Defense Fund was also informed, via the wife of Ben Jealous, current
national president of the NAACP, but took no action. Meanwhile,
my essay criticizing the Klan founder was being branded a “hate
crime” by national columnists like Walter Williams and Paul Craig
Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan.
The attack continued in the Washington Times and on Fox News
with Brit Hume.
I wrote Julian Bond, chairman of the national NAACP. Bond replied
that he himself would not have asked for or expected any help from
the NAACP: it was my own “responsibility” to deal with the attacks.
(Click here to read the
letter from Mr. Bond) When I told this to Ben Jealous at a family
Thanksgiving, he replied that Bond probably figured it was my own
fault — that I had asked for it, that I had had it coming.
the NAACP showed no interest in my case, the United Daughters of
the Confederacy, a 25,000-member organization that commemorated
the last ride of the KKK in Nashville, targeted me with extreme
prejudice. They even sought to take legal action against me for
having written the essay. Eventually I fled the state, leaving many
of my belongings behind.
salt in the wound, the Nashville NAACP gave an award to Gordon Gee
— the man who, by criticizing my critique of the founder of the
KKK, was indirectly defending him. Indeed, Gee called the Daughters
of the Confederacy “old friends.”
told Vanderbilt I wanted to take an unpaid leave of absence to avoid
more death threats. Vanderbilt Dean Richard McCarty wrote that “a
purported debate over whether the founder of the Ku Klux Klan should
be honored in Nashville, and past threats you claim have been made
against you,” were not good enough reasons, and that if I did not
return to Vanderbilt he would have me fired. Weeks after McCarty
wrote this, a Nashville judge issued a $700,000.00 judgment in favor
of the UDC and against Vanderbilt, unless Vanderbilt surrendered.
has indeed come a long way. Perhaps, by the end of this century,
a black man will finally be able to answer the question, without
taking his life into his hands:
won the Civil War?
article originally appeared in The
Tech (MIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first newspaper published on the web), issue
4 volume 129.
Guest Commentator, Dr. Jonathan David Farley, is the
2004 Harvard Foundation Distinguished Scientist of the Year.
He is currently Teaching and Research Fellow teaching mathematics
at the Institut für Algebra Johannes Kepler Universität
Linz, Linz Österreich Click here
to contact Dr. Farley.