The Klansman’s Son: My Journey from White Nationalism to Antiracism: A Memoir (Hardcover)

The Klansman’s Son: My Journey from White Nationalism to Antiracism: A Memoir By R. Derek Black Cover Image

The Klansman’s Son: My Journey from White Nationalism to Antiracism: A Memoir (Hardcover)


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From the former heir-apparent to white nationalism, The Klansman’s Son is an astonishing memoir of a childhood built on fear, of breaking from a community of hate.
When coded language and creeping authoritarianism spread the ideas of white nationalists, this is an essential book with a powerful voice.

Derek Black was raised to take over the white nationalist movement in the United States. Their father, Don Black, was a former Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan and started Stormfront, the internet’s first white supremacist website—Derek built the kids’ page. David Duke, was also their close family friend and mentor. Racist hatred, though often wrapped up in respectability, was all Derek knew.  

Then, while in college in 2013, Derek publicly renounced white nationalism and apologized for their actions and the suffering that they had caused. The majority of their family stopped speaking to them, and they disappeared into academia, convinced that they had done so much harm that there was no place for them in public life.

But in 2016, as they watched the rise of Donald Trump, they immediately recognized what they were hearing—the spread and mainstreaming of the hate they had helped cultivate—and they knew that they couldn’t stay silent.

This is a thoughtful, insightful, and moving account of a singular life, with important lessons for our troubled times. Derek can trace a uniquely insider account of the rise of white nationalism, and how a child indoctrinated with hate can become an anti-racist adult. Few understand the ideology, motivations, or tactics of the white nationalist movement like Derek, and few have ever made so profound a change.
Derek Black is a doctoral student in history at the University of Chicago, researching the medieval and early modern origins of the concept of race and of racist hierarchies and ideologies. Since 2016, they have spoken to many audiences at universities, foundations, institutions, museums, synagogues, and churches. They were the first recipient of the Elie Wiesel Award, and a humanitarian award from the Anti-Defamation League. They have been profiled in the Washington Post, People, and O!, and interviewed for Fresh Air, The Daily, On Being, The Daily Show, and elsewhere. This is their first book.
“I expected an ideological journey. What I did not expect—what sets The Klansman’s Son apart, what had me engrossed—is Derek Black’s meticulous detailing of their emotional journey from White nationalist to antiracist: how they and others felt during each step of their walk away from what and whonurtured them; how internal courage and external love braced each step toward being antiracist. What a deeply moving memoir.”
— Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

“Poignant and significant … a necessary warning that hatred can be comfortable as much as violent, that family warmth can nurture the worst as much as the best. …. Important.”
— Financial Times

“Your family or your soul? That is what the choice finally came down to for Derek Black, whose searching memoir has much to teach us all. Surprises and insights abound in this page-turner composed with candor and grace. For instance, why do White power recruiters focus on those who say, ‘I’m not a racist, but . . .’? The Klansman’s Son is a must-read for all who hunger for hope in these cruel times.”

— Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan

"In The Klansman’s Son," Derek Black displays incredible vulnerability and willingness to criticize so many of their own decisions. Their bravery shows through these pages, and we need to study with extreme care Derek’s story of how a group of passionate young people, by choosing different paths in responding to hatred, helped them in their journey. Perhaps it even holds a key for fighting the varied strains of antisemitism my community, the Jewish community, faces in 2024."

— Elisha Wiesel, chairman of the Elie Wiesel Foundation

“If ever there was a book for these challenging times, it’s The Klansman’s Son by R. Derek Black. In it, Derek delves into their past and shows how they rejected their earlier life and its racist teachings and became a student of American history—history of all Americans of all races, creeds, and colors. I am encouraged by Derek’s journey, and I am hopeful that they can help us all on our journey toward a more perfect union.”
— Charlayne Hunter-Gault, journalist and author My People: Five Decades of Writing about Black Lives