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League of the South: Southern nationalism or white nationalism?
“We seek to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people, by all honorable means”… “We reject the labels ‘racist’ and ‘hate group’…”let’s have a White South.” – Various statements on The League of The South’s website
“We reject completely the idea of equality. It is a flawed idea with no basis in history or biology.” – Michael Hill, founder of The League of The South
I made the title of this column pretty blunt. That’s intentional, because we all know there are people in this community, thankfully a minority, who would read the above quotes and get warm happy feelings. It’s okay; y’all don’t have to write to me. I’m sure you have plenty of reasons for thinking the way that you do. I already assume you don’t like me and think plenty of nasty things about me for what I write, so on, so forth. I saved you some postage there; you’re welcome.
This week I am writing about an active white supremacy group founded in the state of Alabama. While I cannot speak as someone who has been a victim of these groups, I have definitely been impacted by them in my life. My father had a cross burned in his yard by the Klan when he was in college. In high school, I was invited to join in on a Klan meeting. Imagine this person’s reaction when I informed him that his club didn’t like my people either, being a part of a Catholic family and all. It was pretty great, let me tell you.
The League of the South, as they describe themselves, is a “Southern nationalist organization, headquartered in Killen, Alabama, whose ultimate goal is a ‘free and independent Southern republic.’” If you’re feeling particularly secessionistic today, that might even sound like a generally positive statement. This is what is often called, in sociological terms, a “dog whistle statement.” You know how dog whistles make a noise that’s only intended for dogs? That’s how these statements work. To someone immersed in white supremacy culture, this tells them that this is definitely the place they want to be, without saying the ugly parts out loud. Hence why I front loaded this column with some of the more distasteful sentiments of this organization – so you know what they mean by “Southern nationalism.” In one other article written by Michael Hill (accessible from the main page of their website), he directly states under the heading “FROM SOUTHERNER TO SOUTHERN NATIONALIST:” “How to begin to stop this monster then destroy it? First, the Southern people – Whites – must come to realize that we’re all in this together.”
“Oh, so by Southern nationalism they mean white nationalism,” you say to yourself. And that’s exactly right. He’s not just a big fan of cornbread and barbecues. So let’s move on.
The organization was originally founded by a group of university professors throughout the south, with 40 members attending the first meeting in 1996. Michael Hill, the group’s founder, was a British history professor at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. Over the next eight years, co-founding members Grady McWhiney and Forrest McDonald left the organization because of its continued radicalization, denouncing Michael Hill’s leadership. McWhiney and McDonald are both Confederate historians with their own challenging views – so if the meetings got to be a little too much for them…phew!
For the most part, until we reach the increased fervency of the white nationalism from 2015 to modern day, League of the South was primarily faux intellectual white supremacy. They discussed these sorts of things in a lofty, academic manner without any real action. Michael Hill wrote a lot of articles about the cultural superiority of the south’s supposedly Celtic origins, and that’s really about it. Oh, and also about how Black people somehow had it better in antebellum times. Can’t forget that drop of wisdom there.
However, next week, we will get into some of the resurgence of the League of the South among violent alt-right groups, its increasing membership, and so on.
I will skip forward to one little current nugget – Mike Whorton, a prominent realtor in Wetumpka, served as the Alabama state chairman of the League of the South for several years. He resigned his position and membership in the League in 2019. He was the individual who rented the prominent League of the South building to the organization in Wetumpka for their national conferences. He no longer permits them to rent the building for their national conferences, likely because of the publicity this group has gained in recent years.
Silver linings, I guess. See y’all next week.