Art Pope Defends Free Speech, Addresses 1975 UNC Campus Event
In 1975, a young UNC student by the name of Art Pope opposed the idea that a single student could disrupt a speech brought to campus by the Student Union. Recently, a present-day UNC Chapel hill student uncovered the 1975 news story and shared his thoughts with The Daily Tarheel. His Letter to the Editor is below. Art Pope responded with his thoughts, pointing out that students should not celebrate the overturning of a speaker ban and applaud the efforts to ban other speakers. It was and remains a First Amendment issue.
Daily Tarheel – Letter to the Editor:
Art Pope’s racist history with UNC
TO THE EDITOR:
In January 1975, a campus organization called the Union Forum used student fees to bring the National Information Director of the KKK to campus. His name was David Duke.
Black students at the time were outraged.
A press release from the Black Student Movement read in part “The mere sanctioning of the spread of Duke’s decadent philosophy is an unforgivable display of latent racism. Many have construed the argument of objectivity out of proportion. It is such “objectivity” that allows racial oppression even to this date. We as Black people feel divinely justified (if not obligated) to repress the rejuvenation of the Klan philosophy at its very on-set.”
Shortly after Union Forum Director Jim Conrad introduced Duke to the stage, black and white students began to protest.
Despite attempts from University Officials, Student Body President Marcus Williams, and even Duke himself, the students refused to leave or to be silent until David Duke left the building and his podium and microphone were removed from stage. They disrupted his speech.
In the aftermath of this protest, The Daily Tar Heel received over fifty letters offering opinions in favor of and in opposition to the actions students took that day.
But one freshman from Raleigh was especially perturbed. So much so, that he decided to sue the then President of the Black Student Movement, Algenon Marbley, in undergraduate honor court for “disruption”, a charge that could’ve led to Marbley being expelled from school.
The freshman from Raleigh who brought the suit, who tried to get the BSM President kicked out of school for disrupting a speech on campus by the KKK, was Arthur “Art” Pope UNC ’78.
Now, Art Pope is one of the most prolific funders of the Republican Party in the State of North Carolina. A Party that continues its assault on civil rights and against black, brown and trans people to this day.
Does Arthur Pope still believe the KKK have a legitimate claim to first amendment protection when they speak and recruit students at campus sponsored events?
Someone should ask him when he visits campus Tuesday as part of the Institute of Politics’ Fellows Program. Graham Memorial Hall Room 035. Starts at 5:15.
Daily Tarheel – Art Pope Replies
Art Pope responds to letter to the editor
TO THE EDITOR:
It is unfortunate that the The Daily Tar Heel chose to further inflame the growing polarization and extremism in our society by publishing a letter to the editor by Andrew Brennen, Oct. 2, with the false and malicious headline, “Art Pope’s racist history with UNC.”
I have no racist history, and Mr. Brennen’s letter did not accuse me of racism.
What Mr. Brennan’s letter did ask was whether I believe that David Duke and the Klu Klux Klan “have a legitimate claim to first amendment protection” at campus sponsored events.
My answer is that I stand by the quote attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Just seven years before, in 1968, a Federal Court rightfully overturned the state’s “Speaker Ban Law,” which banned known communists from speaking at UNC.
You can’t celebrate the rejection of the speaker ban while embracing a ban on Duke.
It is wrong and unconstitutional for a democratically-elected legislature (and for that matter, a single self-appointed student), to decide who should be banned from speaking, rather than letting each UNC student decide what he or she wants to hear.
James Arthur “Art” Pope
President and Chairman of the John William Pope Foundation
Class of 1978Categories: Higher Education, In the Headlines