White Nationalist Spencer’s Ties to Southern Cotton Fields

Richard B. Spencer — the white nationalist firebrand behind the racist-leaning “alt-right” movement — has a financial portfolio tied to a legacy of slavery: the cotton fields of the South.

Along with two family members, Spencer is “an absentee landlord of 5,200 acres of cotton and corn fields in an impoverished, largely African American region of Louisiana,” the news site Reveal reported last week.

Not only does Spencer and his family own millions of dollar worth of land where slavery and violence against blacks were once commonplace, they also receive millions from the U.S. government he frequently criticizes.

The expose about Spencer’s financial ties came four days after the Los Angeles Times reported that his National Policy Institute the alt-right’s “think tank” behind attempts to mainstream racist ideologies — has lost its non-profit status. The Internal Revenue Service revoked NPI’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt status because the organization failed to file required tax returns for three consecutive years.

Spencer, who has said he will appeal losing non-profit status, also says he has nothing to do with day-to-day operations of the 5,200-acres of Louisiana cotton and corn land his family businesses own.

While Spencer’s non-profit National Policy Institute was hauling in almost $500,000 in tax-deductible contributions over five years, his family farms operation received $2 million in federal subsidies between 2008 and 2015, the news site Reveal reported.

Reveal is a multi-media publication and broadcast platform for the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit based near San Francisco, dedicated to “investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling in order to spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy.”

Spencer declined to tell CIR journalists how much money he personally receives from cotton farming and government subsidies and “whether that income funds his political activities,” the Reveal expose said.

“I’m not involved in any direct day-to-day running of the business,” Spencer told Reveal.  “I’m going to navigate the world as it is, and I’m not going to be a pauper.”

The CIR journalists spent weeks digging out public records detailing Spencer’s and his family members’ connections to the various farming enterprises. One of the companies, called “Poor Richard Partnership,” owns 400 acres of land.

Another family-owned parcel of 1,600 acres sold for $4.3 million in 2012, Reveal reported.

His family’s farm holdings “are a legacy of its ties to the Jim Crow South, passed down by Spencer’s grandfather, who built the business during the turbulent civil rights era,” Reveal journalist Lance Williams wrote in his piece.

Spencer has justified his pro-white, ethno-nationalism views, while feverously boasting and supporting the anti-immigrant, build-the-wall views of President Trump.  

“America, at the end of the day, belongs to white men,” Spencer told a crowd at Texas A&M university a month after Trump was elected. “Our bones are in the ground. We own it.”

He, of course, made no mention of the cotton fields he now owns where African American slaves once toiled, making wealthy white land barons and slave-owners even richer, and where the Ku Klux Klan ruled, frequently with violence. 

“At the end of the day America can’t exist without us,” Spencer told the Texas crowd. “We defined it. This country does belong to White people, culturally, politically, socially, everything.”

In another interview after Trump’s election, Spencer told an Atlanta TV station, “White people ultimately don’t need other races in order to succeed.”

America’s rise was “not through black people” and “has nothing to do with slavery,” Spencer said in response to questions from News One Now host Roland Martin.  

“White people could have figured out another way to pick cotton,” Spencer said. “We do it now.”

In other venues, Spencer has said his current white nationalist views — shared by many racists are justified because of white people’s history of racist domination.

In his interview with Reveal, Spencer downplayed his family’s influence on his political views. “My parents are very mainstream Episcopalian Republicans in Dallas,” he told the CIR journalists.

But the family’s farm holdings “are a legacy of its ties to the Jim Crow South, passed down by Spencer’s grandfather, who built the business during the turbulent civil rights era,” Reveal journalist Lance Williams wrote in his piece.

Richard Spencer was raised in an affluent Dallas neighborhood, and attended Duke University before dropping out.  He now splits his time between National Policy Institute’s “think-tank” office near Washington, D.C., and Whitefish, Montana, where the family’s farms have their headquarters in a $3 million home. 

In a letter published in December in Whitefish’s Daily Inter Lake Spencer’s parents, Rand and Sherry Spencer, separated themselves from their son’s racist views.

“We are not racists,” the Spencers said in their letter. “We have never been racists. We do not endorse the idea of white nationalism.”