The League of the South, a group at the center of the neo-Confederate movement, says it's not racist, but the evidence shows otherwise.
After as many as 30,000 revelers descended on Biloxi, Miss., for last April's "Black Spring Break 2000," many locals, offended by incidents of public nudity and angered by two cases in which white women were partially stripped by drunken men, called for more police, better traffic control and improved planning. Others criticized police for losing control and for not making more arrests.
But J. Michael Hill went further.
To the founder and president of the League of the South (LOS), the 6-year-old organization that has emerged at the forefront of the neo-Confederate movement, the incidents in Biloxi — along with similar attacks on white women in New York City's Central Park by black and Hispanic men — represented a call to arms.
The assaults, he suggested, were not merely the handiwork of individuals. All minorities, in Hill's view, were responsible.
"It is time for us, as Southern whites, to look to our own well being and defense against these thugs," the one-time college professor wrote on AlaReb, an invitation-only, neo-Confederate discussion group on the Internet.
"Moreover, it is time we demand that respectable members of the 'minority community' control their debased 'brothers and sisters.' If they refuse, then we can only believe that they secretly condone such behavior. Let us not flinch when our enemies call us 'racists'; rather, just reply with, 'So, what's your point?'"
Hill, of course, has never suggested that whites control the actions of their "debased brothers and sisters," whites who kill, maim and harass blacks and other minorities. He has offered no lectures about the white mobs that attacked blacks during the civil rights era — on the contrary, he has spoken of the era as a halcyon time in Southern history.
He has never spoken out about the criminals who have randomly murdered black people over the last few years in the name of building a whiter America. And he was silent when a white mob in York, Neb., attacked the home of a white woman dating a black man in 1998.
Instead, Hill has concentrated his fire on the minorities he is certain are destroying America.
Hill is no aberration in the LOS, a group that has grown to include 9,000 people organized into 96 chapters in 20 states. Despite the group's claims that it will brook no racists, the League is rife with white supremacists and racist ideology.
One key LOS figure and old Hill colleague, a man who is the former head of the LOS chapter in Tuscaloosa (Ala.) County where the League got its start, was even blunter than his leader in his own AlaReb posting about black-on-white crime.
"You see the day is coming when we will NEED a new type of Klan," G. David Cooksey wrote after the Central Park incidents in June. "Yes I said Klan!! If push comes to shove I'm for it! ... Time has come to stop this crap now!
"Or would you all like to see your daughters raped???"
Academics Set the Tone
The League of the South, first known as the Southern League, was founded in 1994 by Hill and a group of 40 other people. At first, the LOS appeared to be concerned primarily with questions of Southern culture, threatening to push for secession, at least rhetorically, as a final resort if what were seen as the rights and dignity of the South were not respected.
It keyed in on the notion that Southerners alone among U.S. population groups were commonly denigrated by the "politically correct" dominant culture, seen as emanating from the Yankee North.
And it pushed the idea of the South as fundamentally Christian, calling, in effect, for imposition of a theocracy — a government in which prayers and other religious observances would be common, and mandatory, in public life.
From the start, LOS has been dominated by academics. The current board of directors, for instance, includes four founding members with Ph.D.s.
Hill and Grady McWhiney are both specialists in Celtic history; in fact, McWhiney's book Cracker Culture, which asserts that the South was populated by immigrants from Celtic areas of England and constitutes a culture and population distinct from that of the North, has become a neo-Confederate Bible.
The others are Clyde Wilson, editor of the John C. Calhoun papers at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and Thomas Fleming, president of the archconservative Rockford Institute. Both men write prolifically on neo-Confederate themes.
Almost immediately, the League began to take off, growing in the first few years, Hill has said, "like kudzu." Within four years of its creation in 1994, LOS had recruited 4,000 members.
By 2000, two years later, that number had more than doubled to approximately 9,000 members. LOS's academic veneer, coupled with its insistence that it was not racist despite its keen interest in matters like the Confederate battle flag, helped draw in thousands who might otherwise have stayed away.
It didn't hurt that Hill was then a history professor at historically black Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. (He has since left that job.)
Taking the Fight to the 'Enemy'
But hints of its future radicalism — the raw anger LOS now openly directs at blacks and other minorities — were evident early on. In 1995, Hill joined a crowd of angry whites, including some professional white supremacists, at the funeral of Michael Westerman, a white murdered by a black youth, ostensibly for flying the Confederate pennant on his pickup truck.
Hill, according to the book Confederates in the Attic, declared it was "open season" on anyone who dared to question "the illicit rights bestowed on a compliant and deadly underclass that now fulfills a role similar to that of Hitler's brown-shirted street thugs of the 1930s."
He was referring to black people.
Since then, the tone of the League has grown consistently more hard line. Its ideologues now openly reject the notion of egalitarianism, opting instead for the idea that society is composed of a God-given hierarchy of groups that should not necessarily have the same rights and privileges as one another. Hill now publicly decries racial intermarriage under any circumstances.
He says people other than white Christians would be allowed to live in his South, but only if they bow to "the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and their institutions." Where the goal of secession was once largely rhetorical, it is now a seriously stated aim.
And, in a June posting on AlaReb, Hill called slavery a "God-ordained" institution.
This radicalization is also reflected in an e-mail signed by Hill last April, right after the events in Biloxi. 'WE MUST NOT WAIT AND REACT TO THE ENEMY," Hill wrote. "Let us be bold and take the fight to him. He (the NAACP, Chamber of Commerce, and most elected officials) is well funded and determined to wipe out any vestige of Confederate heritage and culture. ...
"We must not compromise with evil." Rallies, Campaigns and Schools
At the same time, perhaps surprisingly, LOS has steadily grown more powerful, to the point that it is now at the nexus of the neo-Confederate movement. It's ideas about the "Anglo-Celtic" nature of the South are now nearly universally accepted by pro-South groups, as are an array of other myths mainly propagated by LOS ideologues (see related interview, White Lies).
Hill and other LOS leaders have helped organize numerous Confederate flag rallies and similar events in the last two years, most notably taking a leadership role in a huge pro-flag rally in South Carolina last January. LOS also organized a large pro-flag rally in Montgomery, Ala., last March.
Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and the Southern Legal Resource Center, whose "chief trial counsel" is white supremacist lawyer Kirk Lyons (see In the Lyons Den), joined Hill in Montgomery in signing a petition declaring "Southern Cultural Independence" from the rest of the nation.
The League also has been active in traditional politics. In 1996, it helped orchestrate a "Dump Beasley" campaign in South Carolina, where then-Gov. David Beasley, a moderate Republican, supported removing the Confederate flag from atop the state Capitol dome. When Beasley lost, the LOS claimed victory with bumper stickers reading, "We Booted Beasley."
It also attacked Jim Folsom Jr., Alabama's governor until 1995, for a similar reason. And now, the South Carolina chapter of the League is running a "No Votes for Turncoats" political action committee that is raising money to support politicians seen as pro-Confederate flag.
Other LOS efforts are educational — or propagandistic, depending on your point of view. LOS ideologues publish widely, both in their own periodicals and in others associated with the neo-Confederates.
And the League runs the Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History, an organization headed by Donald Livingston that offers seminars "dedicated to combating the demonisation of the South." It is supported by members' dues and an LOS foundation.
A Reporter of Their Own
LOS has not done as well with the mainstream press. Enduring a number of editorial attacks by Southern newspapers, it has loudly complained of what it terms the "scalawag" press — Southern newspapers that, in its view, have sold out to "Yankee" ideologies.
But the League has found a few staunch defenders in the major media, including syndicated columnist and LOS member Charley Reese.
And then there is Robert Stacy McCain. During the workday, McCain is a national reporter at The Washington Times. At other hours, he is an active League member — and a highly visible one, with several political essays featured on the LOS web site.
This high-profile partisanship did not prevent McCain's editors from allowing him to write a story highly critical of the Southern Poverty Law Center last May, even though the Center had long criticized LOS. After hearing the Center's initial complaint over this apparent conflict of interest, Washington Times national editor Ken Hanner did not return the Center's calls.
"[A]s a working journalist with over 10 years experience," McCain writes without irony in one of his LOS essays, an attack on the press for painting Confederate flag backers as racists, "I am well aware of how reporters can subtly frame their stories to suggest which side in any controversy is right."
'We Will Need a New Klan'
In retrospect, it is clear that LOS included hard-liners from the start. One LOS founding member who now sits on the board of directors is Jack Kershaw, who is also a member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC).
As described in an earlier issue of the Intelligence Report (Winter 1999, No. 93), the CCC is directly descended from the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s, racist groups known as the "uptown Klan" that fought against desegregation in the South.
And indeed, Kershaw's lineage goes back to one of those councils, the Citizens Council of Tennessee, of which he was executive secretary.
With the help of LOS, Kershaw recently erected in Nashville a huge statue of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest — a man who was also the Ku Klux Klan's first imperial wizard, a fact the LOS studiously avoids mentioning.
"Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery," Kershaw said in 1998. "Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?"
The list goes on. Michael Andrew Grissom, a charter LOS member and one of its principal ideologues, is a national adviser to the CCC. Michael Masters, who organized the original Virginia chapter of the LOS, is the former Virginia state leader for the CCC and has published articles in the racist American Renaissance magazine.
David Cooksey, the charter LOS member who suggested that "we will NEED a new type of Klan," has been a key CCC official in Alabama. And Joseph Stumph, another founding LOS member, was earlier on the executive committee of the Constitutionalist Networking Center, a militia-related organization that, among other things, believed that constitutional rule in America has been suspended.
More recently, similar cases have come up. In 1998, Kirk Lyons, already well known in the neo-Confederate movement, joined LOS. Another example is Roger Busbice, special assistant to LOS' Louisiana state chairman and a board member of that state's CCC.
Busbice was director of the Young-Sanders Center for the Study of the War Between the States in Morgan City, La. But Busbice chose to shut down the Center rather than accede to a demand from Morgan City's mayor that he remove links from the Center's web site to the LOS and similar neo-Confederate groups.
Finally, there is Phil Beverly, the president of the Birmingham chapter of the League as well as the head of the Central Alabama CCC. Recently, he posted a Webster's definition of "racism" on the AlaReb list and then explained: "I fail to see why anyone would shrink from the application of the term... . All the evidence supports the above belief. Why should we be afraid of telling the truth?"
The many cross-memberships of which these cases are but a sample reflect the key role that the LOS has taken in the neo-Confederate movement of late (see Rebels With a Cause).
Just as Kirk Lyons' Southern Legal Resource Center in North Carolina has become the legal arm of the neo-Confederate movement, so has the LOS turned into the political engine providing the movement its energy. More and more, its politics are dominating formerly apolitical groups like the SCV. Taking Their Stand
And what, exactly, are those politics? While many LOS principals are far more honest in private venues like the AlaReb discussion group, the public statements of group leaders and key activists are also revealing. A few samples:
On white dominance: In his 1996 "President's Message," Hill said the South sought by the LOS is one "where the interests of the core population of Anglo-Celts is protected from the ravages of so-called multiculturalism and diversity." The "European majority," Hill adds, will accept "productive and sympathetic" people from other ethnic groups — but only "on its own terms."
Elsewhere, Hill says his goal is "the revitalization of general European cultural hegemony." And an official LOS position paper on race puts it like this: "Today's white Christian Southerners are the blood descendants of the men and women who settled this country and gave us the blessings of freedom and prosperity. To give away this inheritance in the name of 'equality' or 'fairness' would be unconscionable."
On equality: The League is explicit in its attack on a fundamental tenet of American democracy — the notion that all men are created equal. The very idea, Hill and others say, is "Jacobin," referring to a particularly bloody faction during the French Revolution.
Hill also suggests that citizens need not be given equal rights: "While the teachings of Holy Scripture speak of a civil society composed of superiors, equals and inferiors, each protected in their legal privileges, Jacobin social theory posits that no adult can be justly denied any privilege due another, except perhaps as punishment for ... a crime." Sadly, Hill writes, most Christian Southerners have fallen prey to this "fatal heresy" of egalitarianism.
"[T]he evil genie of universal 'human rights,' once loosed from its bottle, can never be restrained," he writes, "because rights for women, racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals, pedophiles, etc., can be manufactured easily."
On segregation: "The destruction of states rights in the South," Hill wrote in 1998, "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."
William Cawthon, a key LOS ideologue and head of the Northeast Georgia LOS chapter, adds that segregation "is not evil or wrong," but simply a matter of racial "integrity."
On separation of church and state: An official LOS goal, stated in the "LOS 10 Points," is to "return the regulation of religion and morals to the jurisdiction of states and local communities."
The LOS president says that ultimately, LOS seeks a government based on "Christian principles" — and certainly not a representative democracy based on the separation of church and state.
'Get Your Wish'
In a "Legal Notice to Anti-Southern Bigots" on its Web page, the League of the South says that it has "an official anti-bigotry policy" and threatens legal action against any who suggest otherwise.
But you'd hardly know that to listen to a key LOS member and several sympathizers discussing a Klan-sponsored "Southern American Pride and Heritage Flag Raising" rally in Decatur, Ala., that took place on May 28.
Led by long-time Klan leader Ricky Draper, the rally turned violent when fights broke out between rally supporters and black passersby. In the end, one black was arrested and one flag supporter needed nine stitches.
Soren Dresch, an LOS member and owner of the Ruffin Flag Co. that specializes in Confederate symbols, was blunt enough. "Sounds like Decatur needs a response to the blacks who think the world is their oyster," he wrote on AlaReb. "I hope the next group ... is armed and ready to hit an afro between the eyes." Dresch refers to blacks in his postings as "savages," "beasts" and "animals."
A woman named Ellen, who is married to an LOS member and is herself is a member of an SCV auxiliary, the Order of the Confederate Rose, also chimed in on AlaReb. For her, too, the makeup of the Decatur rally was no problem.
'WE SHOULD IMMEDIATELY TAKE THE SIDE OF THE MEN IN DECATUR; WHETHER THEY ARE SCV OR IF THEY ARE MISSING THEIR FRONT TEETH AND DIP SKOAL AND SPIT ON THE SIDEWALK," Ellen wrote in a feverish posting.
"THEY ARE OUR PEOPLE!!! ... We only play into the hands of the liberal whites (who despise us all) when we turn our backs on those considered 'trailer park trash'... . WHEN WILL WE FORM A 'COMMON BOND' WITH OUR KIND AND STOP DISTANCING OURSELVES FROM CERTAIN SEGMENTS OF OUR POPULATION."
Whether or not the League officially agrees with such sentiments, at least some LOS units are apparently unconcerned with appearances. Recently, the North Carolina chapter of the League added a new name to its Web site's roster of local group officials.
Named as official "advisor" to the chapter was Steven Barry — an open white supremacist and anti-Semite who is also the "military coordinator" of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and head of the secretive Special Forces Underground.
In Mississippi, meanwhile, LOS now has a gubernatorial candidate in the person of John Thomas Cripps, the League's state chairman. And although Cripps is running for public office, he has not hesitated to publicly join the angry crowd when it comes to discussing the spring break incidents in Biloxi.
In a posting on the state LOS page, Cripps spoke of "the cultural barbarism of this group of animals." Then he went on to offer Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway some advice: "Sir, if flying the Confederate flag supposedly keeps certain tourists away and if these blacks are the tourists that the flag offends and if you really don't want them to return next year then here is your solution," Cripps wrote.
"FLY THE CONFEDERATE FLAG AND GET YOUR WISH!"