Mike Hill represents the intellectual but racist faction of the neo-Confederate movement and is its most important proponent. Ironically, Hill was a professor for years at a historically black college before establishing the League of the South in 1994 as an institution devoted to reviving Southern heritage and, eventually, pushing for secession. As Hill spurred the group to become increasingly racist and militant in the late 1990s, most of the other academics who joined in 1994 fled as racial extremists took their place in a much-diminished institution. During the first decade of the 21st century, the group grew increasingly radical, talking about a coming “race war,” forming a paramilitary unit, and talking increasingly of weapons.
In His Own Words
"The destruction of states rights in the South was the first necessity leading to forced policies undermining the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and its institutions. [Arch-segregationist Alabama Gov. George] Wallace rightly identified the enemy and fought it until the attempt on his life in 1972."
— Southern Patriot, 1998
"[T]he evil genie of universal ‘human rights,' once loosed from its bottle, can never be restrained because rights for women, racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals, pedophiles, etc., can be manufactured easily."
— Essay posted to Dixienet.org, 1999
"In part, [the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks] spring from an ‘open borders' policy that has for the past four decades encouraged massive Third World immigration and thus cultural destabilization. Hence, these acts of violence were also the natural fruits of a regime committed to multiculturalism and diversity, hallmarks of empire rather than of nation. … [T]his is America's wake-up call to forsake its idolatry and to return to its true Christian and Constitutional foundations."
— Essay posted to Dixienet.org, 2001
"If the scenario of the South (and the rest of America) being overrun by hordes of non-white immigrants does not appeal to you, then how is this disaster to be averted? By the people who oppose it rising up against their traitorous elite masters and their misanthropic rule. But to do this we must first rid ourselves of the fear of being called ‘racists' and the other meaningless epithets they use against us. What is really meant by the [multiculturalism] advocates when they peg us as ‘racists' is that we adhere to ethnocentrism, which is a natural affection for one's own kind. This is both healthy and Biblical. I am not ashamed to say that I prefer my own kind and my own culture. Others can have theirs; I have mine. No group can survive for long if its members do not prefer their own over others."
— Essay posted to Conservativetimes.org, 2007
“Yes, the South has a ‘black’ problem. It also has a ‘yankee’ problem. But our biggest problem—and one even Christian members within our own ranks refuse (or fear) to acknowledge—is the ‘Jewry’ problem. Indeed, organized Jewry has been at the root of most of the South’s troubles for the past 100 years.”
— On an internal League of the South Facebook group
“We Southern nationalists do not want a race war (or any sort of war). But if one is forced on us, we’ll participate. … Southern whites are geared up and armed to the teeth. … So if negroes think a ‘race war’ in modern America would be to their advantage, they had better prepare themselves for a very rude awakening. White people may be patient, but our patience does have a limit. You do not want to test that limit.”
— “A few notes on an American race war,” May 6, 2015
Sporting a white beard intended to give him the look of a Confederate Army officer, native Alabamian J. Michael Hill has done more than anyone to create a new, racially tinged Southern secession movement. Ironically, Hill taught British history for decades as he developed his thinking about the nature and religion of the South at historically black Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Hill was always an oddity at the school, roaming the campus wearing a Confederate flag pin and waxing nostalgic to his mostly black students about the "War Between the States." In 1996, Hill told columnist Diane Roberts that his black students adored him; what he didn't say was that he apparently did not share their warmth. In a 2000 posting to the invitation-only AlaReb E-mail list, Hill mocked his former students and co-workers. "A quote," he wrote, "from a recent affirmative action hire: ‘Yesta-day I could not spell ‘secretary.' Today I is one.'" He continued: "One of few benefits I got on a regular basis from having taught for 18 years at Stillman College was reading the class rolls on the first day of class." He went on to list several "humorous" names of his black students, ending with, "Where do these people get such names?" Hill resigned from Stillman in 1998. Although school officials never said so publicly, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that Hill had become "an embarrassment" to the administration.
Hill began to develop his ideas about a new Confederacy in the 1970s, while studying under Grady McWhiney and Forrest McDonald, two extremely conservative history professors at the University of Alabama. His mentors wrote Cracker Culture, a book that argued that the South was settled primarily by "Anglo-Celts," while in the North it was British Protestants who predominated.
Expanding on his old professors' controversial claim that the South was different from the North because its population was "Celtic," Hill published two books on Celtic history in the early 1990s. In 1994, he became an activist and put his ideas into practice, creating the Southern League, which was later renamed the League of the South (the original name was a takeoff on the separatist and anti-immigrant Northern League of Italy, but had to be changed after a baseball league of the same name threatened to sue), or LOS. The LOS envisioned a seceded South that would be run, basically, as a theocratic state marked by medieval legal distinctions between different types of citizens, with white males at the top of the hierarchy.
Started with 40 people, the LOS initially included four men with Ph.D.s on its board, along with Jack Kershaw, who was once active in the segregationist White Citizens Council in Nashville and who remained on the board as late as 2009.
Hill's LOS started out complaining about the media treatment of white Southerners but quickly developed into a racist group calling for a second secession, attacking egalitarianism, describing antebellum slavery as "God-ordained," opposing racial intermarriage, and defending segregation as a policy designed to protect the "integrity" of both the black and the white races.
An early sign of the League's underlying racism came in 1995, when Hill set up a student chapter at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Within months, its members began to verbally attack gays, and chapter president Thomas Stedman wrote to the student newspaper to claim that "blacks did not invent ... anything of note anywhere in the world." Hill also praised extremists like the Holocaust-denying and immigrant-bashing Jean-Marie Le Pen of France, calling for "others like Le Pen to arise." The "ravages of multiculturalism and so-called diversity," Hill said, are anathema to him. Hill described the Pledge of Allegiance as "nationalist propaganda [meant] to indoctrinate" children with socialist ideas about government.
In 2003, Hill led an attempt to resuscitate the Southern Party, another neo-Confederate organization. And he attacked the Supreme Court after its ruling in July of that year striking down anti-gay sodomy laws, saying the court was helping to advance what he called the "sodomite and civil rights agendas."
In 1998, just after he left Stillman, Hill claimed that the LOS had some 15,000 members. In 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center added the organization to its list of hate groups based on its white supremacist ideology. Four years later, Hill's former mentor, Forrest McDonald, who had attended the first meeting of the LOS in 1994, denounced him, telling the Intelligence Report that Hill's racism had destroyed the group. By 2009, the League of the South could only draw a handful of participants to its events, and its publications were produced sporadically.
But as Hill saw his academic support flee and his organization’s membership dwindle, his rhetoric grew more extreme, his racism more explicit. The Civil War, he says, wasn’t about slavery. It was the imposition by godless Yankees of a materialistic, capitalist industrial system on a South that embodied the only surviving remnant of “orthodox Christianity.” He decried the “evil genie of universal ‘human rights,’” and called egalitarianism a noxious “Jacobin” doctrine. America’s traitorous “elite masters,” he complained, had allowed it to be “overrun by hordes of non-white immigrants.”
In a 2012 essay, he claimed that white people are endowed with a “God-ordained superiority.” Whites of “honor, genius and principle” left us with a “glorious heritage,” while black people “have never created anything approximating a civilization.” Slavery, he wrote, was “successfully defended from a Biblical standpoint” until “the institution’s legitimacy was systematically undermined in the name of ‘equality’ and misappropriated ‘Christian ethics.’” He also waxed nostalgic for the Jim Crow system of racial oppression.
Particularly alarming was Hill’s growing penchant for inciting his remaining followers to violence. At a March 2011 LOS meeting in Georgia, he urged members to stock up on AK-47s, hollow-point bullets and tools to derail trains. That summer, at the League’s annual conference, the leader asked, “What would it take to get you to fight? The mantra [that] violence, or the serious threat thereof, never settles anything is patently false. History shows that it indeed does settle many things.”
This increasingly vocal militancy brought the LOS’ ideology and goals closer and closer to those of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. In a January 2012 E-mail, Hill declared the federal government an “organized criminal enterprise” led by “domestic terrorists,” and told his followers to prepare for a fight.
Hill even took ideas straight from the playbook of the Posse Comitatus, a racist, anti-Semitic group that raged through the Midwest in the late 1970s and 1980s. Adherents of the Posse, which was the precursor to the contemporary “sovereign citizens” movement, believed that sheriffs were the highest legitimate law enforcement officials in the country. In addition to self-defense, Hill advised his followers to use their county sheriffs “as bulwarks against the criminal class. … He can lawfully tell the feds to ‘Go to Hell’ and stay out of his territory.”
The year 2013 saw another major shift in strategy for Hill and the LOSe as it adopted new rhetoric against “Southern demographic displacement.” The LOS deemphasized its longstanding objectives of a second southern secession and society dominated by “European Americans” during public events in order to portray a more moderate, conservative image. Under this new strategy, protests began focusing on more traditionally conservative themes such as opposition to immigration and same-sex marriage. Attendees were also required to follow a dress code at LOS demonstrations. Most remarkably, the group banned the usage of the Confederate battle flag at its events, much to the anger and chagrin of many of its members, in favor of a new “southern nationalist” flag.
This shift in the LOS’ policy also led to Hill’s expulsion of Matthew Heimbach, one of the organizations most visible young members, after photos surfaced of Heimbach performing a Nazi salute at events with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and the Imperial Klans of America. “Matthew Heimbach, a former member of The League of the South, has apparently decided to cast his lot with Nazis and others who do not represent the traditional South, the Southern Nationalist movement, and The League of the South,” Hill wrote on the Facebook page for an upcoming League event in Tennessee. “Neither he nor his friends will be welcome at our demonstrations.”
But Hill apparently underwent a change of heart less than a year later, readmitting Heimbach and promoting him to a leadership position as LOS training director.
The LOS’ more radical elements returned to the forefront shortly thereafter with the formation of an armed, paramilitary unit dubbed “the Indomitables” by Hill and the LOS’ leadership at the group’s 2014 national conference. The unit was tasked with advancing a second southern secession by any means necessary and embodied the increasingly extreme rhetoric of the group. “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers; instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run,” wrote Hill on the League’s website. He concluded the essay by quoting Psalms: “Blessed be the Lord my strength who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight.”
In May 2015, Hill published what was probably his most provocative essay yet, pontificating about the possibility of an American “race war” and warning black Americans of “a very rude awakening” if such a war developed.