March 2, 2021
6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
Via Zoom webinar

A conversation with Derek Black, godson of David Duke and former heir apparent to the white nationalist movement.

Moderated by Aaron Simmons, PhD, Furman University professor of philosophy.

The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob seeking to stop Congress from certifying the results of the November election underscored how our democracy is flawed and fragile. While the attack was unsuccessful in stopping the government from performing its constitutional duty, the detrimental effects of the spread of disinformation and the rise of extremist domestic groups continue to threaten the long term stability of our national security and our democracy.

Not everyone who was in D.C. that day to protest was involved in the breach of the Capitol, but among those rioting were extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Boogaloo Bois, whose ideologies overlap with the white supremacy beliefs of the white nationalist movement. Others were there because they had fallen prey to conspiracy theories such as those circulated through QAnon or simply because they felt the president had ‘invited them to come’ and wanted them to break into the U.S. Capitol. Calls to hang Vice President Mike Pence, the placement of pipe bombs outside the Republican and Democratic headquarters, the murder of a police officer and physical injury to 140 more officers horrified the police and security officials, members of Congress, and the American public.

To help us understand the undercurrents, identities, and passions that motivated the mob—and that still exist even though the mob is dispersed—Dr. Aaron Simmons engaged in a conversation with Derek Black, who grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. Three Furman students also shared their perspectives on the attack. Derek’s experiences give him keen insight into the role of white nationalism in the attacks on the Capitol, what the future may hold for the white nationalist movement, and how important it is for all of us to guard against complacency in the coming months and years.

About Derek Black

Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father, Don Black, founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned 19 and entered college, he was regarded as the leading light of the burgeoning white nationalist movement.

At New College of Florida, he encountered diverse perspectives and for the first time questioned the science, history, and prejudices behind his worldview. Eventually, at tremendous personal cost, he disavowed everything he was taught to believe. He is the subject of Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Pulitzer prize-winning author Eli Saslow.

A graduate of New College, Black is a PhD candidate in medieval studies at University of Chicago.

About Aaron Simmons

Recognized as a leader in philosophy, Aaron Simmons is the author or editor of numerous books, articles, and essays. He is the president of Søren Kierkegaard Society and former President of South Carolina Society for Philosophy.

Specializing in postmodern philosophy of religion and political philosophy, Simmons is a widely sought-after public speaker who shows how philosophy can help to foster cultures of trust, leaders who model humility, and companies that are grounded in virtue. He has given keynote, motivational, and consulting talks with companies and organizations such as TD Bank, Ortec Chemicals, Chick-fil-A Franchises, Greenville Business Magazine, NextPlay, Americorps, The Modern Man, and The Atlantic Institute. Simmons holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.



About the Furman Students

Qwameek Bethea

Qwameek Bethea (’21) from Dillon, S.C., is on the pre-law track, double majoring in politics and international affairs and philosophy with a minor in African diaspora cultures. He is the president of Furman University’s NAACP chapter.




Katherine McCann

Katherine McCann (’23) from Greenville, S.C., is on the pre-med track, double majoring in biology and Spanish. She is a member of the Furman Conservative Society, Society of Tocqueville Fellows, Shucker Leadership Institute, and Mere Christianity Forum.




Ingrid Ramos Rivera

Ingrid Ramos Rivera (’21) from Greenville, S.C., is double majoring in Spanish and politics and international affairs with a minor in Latin American studies. She is a member of the Furman Hispanic Outreach Latinx Awareness (HOLA).