Historically Black college hosts white supremacist; students rise up
Gerald Herbert/AP

NEW ORLEANS— On the night of Nov. 2, the campus of Dillard University was thrown into chaos when David Duke, former Imperial Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and former state senator and presidential candidate, took the stage with five other candidates for U.S. Senate to debate.

Duke, largely riding on the racist and anti-immigrant coattails of Republican nominee for President Donald Trump, cracked 5 percent in the polls in Louisiana, which qualified him to be at the debate. His qualification took place after Dillard University offered to host the event.

Some students, however, believe that Duke’s horrendous history of white supremacy, holocaust denial, and fraud is disqualifying at any polling average.

Six students were arrested at a protest involving hundreds of students and allies that took place at the venue. In the days leading up to the debate, protests were discouraged by Walter M. Kimbraugh, who claimed that ignoring the debate would be an effective way to register their disapproval with Duke’s candidacy.

Students attended the protest from Dillard as well as other New Orleans universities and community groups such as the Take ‘Em Down NOLA coalition, which advocates for the removal of monuments to the Confederacy.

“This is about our student body, this goes way past Duke… this is about the future of black education,” said one of the leaders whose speech was streamed on Facebook Live by Fusion (the embedded video can be found in the side bar), “we aren’t here to stop Duke from running… we’re here to stand behind our ancestors who fought for us.”

She went on to explain that the students were not targeting white supremacists. “You can’t change their minds,” she said. Rather, she added, the students were aiming their dissent at the administration, which she accused of being unwilling to listen to the student body.

Students had organized and hounded administration to renege on the contract for weeks beforehand, prompting public responses which downplayed their concerns and that avoided using Duke’s name.

“This is a travesty that we have to mobilize ourselves to make this man realize that he has gone against our people, our history,” said another leader, “there is no way any self-respecting Black should have signed a contract or not torn up a contract once he found out David Duke was coming.

“He should be responsive to this community.”

As of the eve of Election Day, none of the candidates are expected to crack the 50% margin needed to win outright and a December 10 runoff is expected. David Duke is not considered a serious contender.


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.