HOUSTON (FinalCall.com)–A recent commentary written by a Black university professor in a local Tennessee newspaper, describing sympathizers of the old U.S. Confederacy as “holocaust revisionists” and demanding the removal of a statue that immortalizes a Klu Klux Klan founder, has led to a barrage of hate mail, threats on his life and organized efforts to have him removed from the university roster.
Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Ph.D., is a former Fulbright Distinguished Scholar to the United Kingdom, a recent Green Party candidate for Congress and currently serves as assistant professor over Vanderbilt University’s Mathematics Department in Nashville, Tenn.
In a Nov. 20 essay that appeared in a Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, titled, “Remnants of the Confederacy glorifying a time of tyranny,’’ Mr. Farley charged: “Lest we forget, the Confederacy aimed to destroy the United States. Every Confederate soldier, by the mores of his age and ours, deserved not a hallowed resting place at the end of his days but a reservation at the end of the gallows.
Black Americans and White Europeans object to the statue of a 19th century Hitler standing in public view off an interstate highway. It, and the Confederate flags surrounding it, represent nothing less than a death threat against scores of millions of people of color. That monument must go. Not only because it’s racist and violent but also because it’s just plain ugly,” he wrote, referring to the statue of Nathan Forrest, one of the founding members of the racist Klu Klux Klan.
The essay was born out of a rebuttal. In February, the university chose to remove the name “Confederate” from a Peabody College campus residence hall after years of controversy over the name. Confederate heritage groups, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), filed a lawsuit, claiming the action taken by the university violated contractual agreements between them and the former George Peabody College of Teachers, which is now a part of Vanderbilt. In 1935, UDC raised $50,000, they claim, to build the hall and view the university’s decision as rewriting history and rejecting Southern culture. They are now demanding financial compensation.
Mr. Farley praised the removal of the name, which took place last February, and further chastised UDC and others for defending slavery. “But the war was not about slavery,’’ he mocked of his attackers. “It was about states’ rights.’’ But the “right’’ Confederates sought to defend was the “right to murder, rape and torture millions of Africans, with impunity,” he wrote. “The Confederacy’s own vice president, Alexander Stephens, declared that the Confederacy rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not the equal of the White man, that slavery–the subordination to the superior race–is his natural and normal condition.’’ Today’s Confederates, who deny that the war was about slavery, are the new holocaust revisionists, he said.
The comments outraged many and Mr. Farley, as well as the paper, found themselves embroiled in requests for both equal time on opinion pages and calls for the professor’s ouster.
Web sites dedicated to the latest uproar, counter-opinions on the Internet, and more than 1,000 phone calls and e-mails have demanded that Prof. Farley be fired. “Confederate groups deserve the same tolerance as any other group, and it shouldn’t automatically be assumed we are demons with fangs out to harm African Americans. Jonathan Farley is a big advocate for slavery reparations, and I think he is just looking for a scapegoat,” said Terry Compton of Virginia, who has written rebuttals against Mr. Farley.
University officials are standing firm behind the Black professor’s right to express his opinions. “Our faculty has, by virtue of their academic freedom, the ability and authority to say anything they want,’’ said Michael Schoenfeld, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for Public Affairs in a published report. “We also encourage civility and respect, and we want our faculty to be responsible with this right.’’