Shouting down Klansman violated ‘noblest traditions’

On this day in 1975: Black hecklers prevent David Duke, a little-known Ku Klux Klansman from Louisiana, from speaking at the University of North Carolina’s Memorial Auditorium.

Chancellor Ferebee Taylor calls the incident “a transgression of one of the highest and noblest traditions of this institution.”

Duke will go on to form the National Association for the Advancement of White People in 1980, be elected to the Louisiana legislature in 1989, challenge incumbent George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate and House seats in 1996 and 1999, respectively.


One thought on “Shouting down Klansman violated ‘noblest traditions’”

  1. University Archives, here at Wilson Library, has a letter that Duke wrote to the Daily Tar Heel after he was prevented from speaking.

    Coincidentally, I pulled the letter from our stacks a few minutes ago. We’ll be including it in an upcoming exhibit on free speech and academic freedom at UNC that opens in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in mid-February. Look for more details on the exhibit in the coming weeks.

    It’s a four-page letter written on University Motor Inn stationery. Apparently Duke spent 2 1/2 hours working on it.

    Here’s how the letter begins:

    “It’s been a long day and I am exhausted. The always inefficient airlines have lost my suitcase. It’s quarter to twelve and I can’t even brush my teeth. But I feel that I need to sit down before the escape of sleep, and put down my feelings toward a student body–before which I was rudely not permitted to speak. A small black and Marxist group had taken it upon themselves to be the ‘mother and daddy’ of 20,000 college students and decide what they could and could not see and hear. By any means necessary this self appointed censorial body was determined not to permit ‘easily corruptable (sic)’ college ‘brats’ to hear such a ‘nasty’ speaker who might poison their infantile minds. Everyone is certainly aware that the college student is only intellectually mature enough to handle non controversial speakers like Jane Fonda and Angela Davis–speakers who represent the opinions and admirations (sic) of the average student like John Egan of the (Young Socialist Alliance) a group which thousands of UNC students are waiting in line to join….”

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