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The On Being Project

How Friendship and Quiet Conversations Transformed a White Nationalist

Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson

How Friendship and Quiet Conversations Transformed a White Nationalist

We'd heard Derek Black, the former white power heir apparent, interviewed before about his past. But never about the friendships, with other people in their twenties, that changed him. After his ideology was outed at college, one of the only orthodox Jews on campus invited Derek to Shabbat dinner. What happened over the next two years is like a roadmap for transforming some of the hardest territory of our time.

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  • Derek Black

    Derek Black

    was raised in one of the most prominent white nationalist families in America. His father founded the web’s first and largest white power website and David Duke was his godfather. Black spent the first two decades of his life as an enthusiastic aid to his family’s activism, running a political campaign, a radio network, and organizing conferences. In college, he faced condemnation but also met a new circle of friends, who challenged him to defend his belief in white nationalism. Over years, Black conceded that the ideology he had fought so hard to promote was harmful, and he renounced the white supremacist movement in 2013. He is a graduate student in history at the University of Chicago.

  • Matthew Stevenson

    Matthew Stevenson

    was born and raised in South Florida. He graduated from the New College of Florida, the state’s honors college, with degrees in mathematics and economics. After graduating, Stevenson worked as an equity research associate at an investment bank in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently pursuing his MBA at Columbia Business School.