Tennessee sees highest rate of white supremacy events in nation for 2018

Photo by MTSU Sidelines

Based on an article previously published in the Hickman County Times by the same author

Tennessee has seen more white supremacist incidents from 2018 to present than any other state in the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League, one of the world’s leading anti-hate organizations.

The data comes from the league’s ongoing interactive H.E.A.T map—or Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism and Terrorism map– that logs every extremist and anti-Semitic incident in the nation. Among the 117 white supremacist events logged across the country in 2018, 21 of them originated in Tennessee. Incidents like the Joint Nationalist Solutions Symposium, an annual white supremacist conference in Burns, Tennessee that is co-sponsored by the American Freedom Party and the Council of Conservative Citizens, the Identity Evropa national conference, a demonstration in front of the Tennessee State Capitol by the American Identity Movement and a protest at a Pridefest in Knoxville that ended in violence all attracted dozens of white supremacists from across the nation.

The Anti-Defamation League’s H.E.A.T. map showing white supremacist events across the country from 2018-2019. There are often multiple events per city, causing the circles to be stacked on top of each other.

The startling number does not include the push for recruiting through propaganda. Extremist groups have stepped up outreach across Tennessee considerably over the past few years, tallying up more than 35 incidents of mass distribution of propaganda last year alone. These efforts, most commonly made by Patriot Front and Identity Evropa, particularly target college campuses like the incidents seen on MTSU’s campus in 2018 and similarly in 2017.

This news follows closely on the heels of a number of recent white supremacy-related incidents in Tennessee. The Murfreesboro Post reported early Friday morning that white supremacist propaganda from the group “Patriot Front,” a splinter group of Vanguard America, which formed after the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia rally, was found tacked to a light pole at the corner of North Spring and College Streets. The flier, stating “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Victory,” alludes to the patriotic symbolism that the group uses to promote its xenophobic rhetoric, in hopes of appealing to a wider crowd of nationalists.

The leader of Patriot Front, Thomas Rousseau, led protestors from Vanguard America at the Charlottesville rally. This included James Alex Fields Jr., the man who was recently sentenced to life in prison for murdering anti-racist protestor Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville rally.

Vanguard America was also present at the 2017 White Lives Matter Rally in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. The numerous white supremacy groups including the League of the South, the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Worker Party and Vanguard America were organized under the banner of the “Nationalist Front.”

The groups shouted racist epithets like “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi Germany slogan “Blood and soil.” Counter-protestors outnumbered the extremists in both cities, however, and disrupted the chants with their own: singing “Amazing Grace,” and playing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” among other efforts.


The overwhelming amount of counter-protestors even caused the Nationalist Front to cancel the Murfreesboro portion of the protest at the last minute.

Efforts to bring attention to and take action against the popularity of white supremacy in Tennessee took a blow earlier this month after the controversial decision by Gov. Bill Lee to declare July 13 “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day,” commemorating the Confederate general, slave trader and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to an obscure state law from 1971, the governor must issue annual proclamations for six state holidays, including January 19 as “Robert E. Lee Day,” February 12 as “Abraham Lincoln Day,” March 15 as “Andrew Jackson Day,” June 3 as “Memorial or Confederate Decoration Day,” July 13 as “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” and November 11 as “Veterans’ Day.”

The memo declaring Forrest’s proclamation, identical to the one published last year by Gov. Bill Haslam, describes Forrest only as a “recognized military figure in American history and a native Tennessean” and encourages citizens to “join (him) in this worthy observance, ” according to the Tennessean.

Lee’s action drew criticism across the country, with calls to change the law even coming from conservative Sen. Ted Cruz.

Gov. Lee had previously made no indication that he planned to change the commemorative day, which only served to fuel complaints of racism across Tennessee.

“I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven’t looked at changing that law,” Lee told the Tennessean.

Previous attempts to change the law by Tennessee Democrats have been shot down.

“This a reminder of the painful and hurtful crimes that were committed against black people,” Rep. Vincent Dixie of Nashville stated in an interview with News Channel 5.”Now you’re signing a proclamation honoring the same people that fought to keep people that look like me, African Americans in slavery.”

After public backlash, Lee released a statement on his twitter about changing the law.


MTSU students are, of course, very familiar with the fight to remove Forrest’s influence from the modern era, starting on campus with the multiple attempts to change the name of Forrest Hall.

Unlike the state’s stance turn-around, however, the school has not been successful in its efforts to erase Forrest from its grounds or memory.

Future efforts are expected.

In 2018, there were 36 hate groups tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Tennessee. 22 of them were white nationalist/supremacist groups. They are:



To contact Editor-in-Chief Angele Latham, email editor@mtsusidelines.com.

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