Tulane Postpones Discussion with 'Life of a Klansman' Author

August 10, 2020

Tulane University's School of Liberal Arts postponed a discussion on Aug. 6 with National Book Award winner Edward Ball, author of Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). Students called for the event to be canceled and argued it would center a racist family legacy in a discussion about anti-racism rather than a Black person's perspective and experience.

In a letter to School of Liberal Arts administrators, student government leaders said the event would be "antithetical to the anti-racist work" of students, faculty and staff members at the university, and argued the college should rather "prioritize uplifting Black voices." The student leaders called for college officials to apologize for the harm the planned event had caused to members of the campus, which they soon did, in a statement posted to social media platforms.

The college's statement first explained that Ball's book "addresses painful truths of America's racist past and present and serves as a history of white supremacy in Louisiana" and that the author had engaged in discussion with renowned anti-racism scholars such as Ibram X. Kendi.

"We understand, however, that the event, as planned, has caused distress for many in our community, and we apologize," said the statement, posted on the School of Liberal Arts Facebook and Instagram pages. "Tulane is fully committed to fostering an environment that is equitable, inclusive and just. Going forward, difficult discussions such as this will be important since, as we know, the work of dismantling racism is layered and complex."

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