- Former longtime Professor of Black Studies at City College of New York
- Holds whites and Jews in contempt
- Believes that blacks (“sun people”) are racially and culturally superior to whites (“ice people”)
- “Jews are a race of skunks and animals that stole Africa from the Black Man.”
Leonard Jeffries was born in Newark, New Jersey on January 19, 1937. After graduating from from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, he studied law at New York University, earned an M.A. from Columbia University in 1963, and was awarded fellowships with both the Rockefeller Foundation and the Whitney Opportunity Fellowship program. From 1962-69, Jeffries worked for Operation Crossroads Africa. In 1969, while he was employed as a City College of New York (CCNY) instructor, Jeffries and Professor John Henrik Clarke together established an African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA) on campus.
From 1969-72, Jeffries served as the founding chairman of San Jose State University’s Black Studies Department.
From 1972-2012, he was a Professor of Black Studies at CCNY. Despite having little or no standard peer-reviewed scholarship to his name, Jeffries was not only tapped to head the school’s Black Studies Department (a post he would go on to hold for 20 years), but also was granted tenure almost instantly — thanks in no small part to a CCNY administration determined to appease a surging militancy among blacks on campus.
In addition to his work at CCNY:
- Jeffries in the 1970s became the oral history director of the Carnegie-funded Kinte Library for Black Genealogical Research in Washington, D.C.
- In 1975 he was the founding director of the National Council for Black Studies.
- He subsequently served as a consultant for Alex Haley’s 1976 book, Roots, as well as the 1977 television miniseries that bore the same title.
- In 1984 he co-founded the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations with Asa G. Hilliard, Jacob Carruthers, Yosef Ben-Jochannan, and Maulana Karenga.
Afrocentric Racist & Jew-Hater
Over the course of his professional academic career, Jeffries developed into: (a) a longtime leading proponent of Afrocentrism—a field of study that judges Western civilization to be irredeemably racist and demands a corrective curriculum glorifying African peoples and cultures; (b) a black supremacist, claiming whites to be genetically inferior to blacks; and (c) an inveterate anti-Semite, blaming “rich Jews” for everything from the allegedly anti-black content of Hollywood movies to the transatlantic slave trade.
Applauding the 1986 Explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle
In 1986 Jeffries went so far as to applaud the disastrous and deadly explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle, on grounds that whites had thereby been prevented, at least temporarily, from “spreading their filth throughout the universe.”
“Curriculum of Inclusion”
Notwithstanding his already well-known views about white people, in 1988 Professor Jeffries was appointed by then-New York State Education Commissioner Thomas Sobol to help draft a report, titled “A Curriculum of Inclusion,” recommending an expanded focus on “multiculturalism” in the state’s K-12 public-school curricula. Jeffries’ influence was everywhere in evidence throughout the document, which was completed in 1989 and read more like a polemic than a scholarly assessment. Claiming that “African Americans, Asian Americans, Puerto Ricans/Latinos, and Native Americans have all been the victims of an intellectual and educational oppression that has characterized the culture and institutions of the United States and the European American world for centuries,” the report stated: “Negative characterizations or the absence of positive references have a terribly damaging effect on the psyche of young people of African, Asian, Latino, and Native American descent, and an equally damaging, though different, effect on young people of European American descent.”
Jeffries’ Infamous 1991 Speech Smearing Whites & Jews
Jeffries’ black supremacist views first came to public notice in the spring of 1988, when a white student, writing in the CCNY campus newspaper, catalogued the many anti-white theories that Jeffries had routinely advanced in one of his classes, Black Studies 101. As New York magazine reported in January 1991: “According to Fred Rueckher, a white student who took his [Jeffries’] course, Jeffries attacked black males for succumbing to the ‘white pussy syndrome,’ that is, pursuing white women. He called Diana Ross an ‘international whore’ for her involvement with white men.”
In April 1990, The New York Times reported that another Jeffries class, nominally about African heritage, would have been truer to its content had it been offered under title of “Anti-Jewish Conspiracies 101.” Grossly overstating the participation of Jews in the transatlantic slave trade, Jeffries taught that “rich Jews who financed the development of Europe also financed the slave trade.” In a similar vein, he railed against the notion that the murder of six million Jews during World War II deserved to be recognized as a uniquely horrific act of genocide, complaining to his students that “the Jewish Holocaust is [generally] raised as the only Holocaust.”
Jeffries also used the classroom to retail his decidedly supremacist view of human evolution. Blacks, he explained, were “sun people” culturally and racially superior to whites, the “ice people.” These ideas were of a piece with Jeffries’ embrace of melanin theory, which posits the notion that darker skin pigmentation makes black people inherently superior to their white counterparts. By Jeffries’ telling, blacks’ extra melanin enables them to “negotiate the vibrations of the universe and to deal with the ultraviolet rays of the sun.”
Jeffries exploded into the public consciousness in August 1991, when the New York Post published an account of a long, anti-Semitic and racist speech he had delivered on July 20 at the taxpayer-funded Empire State Black Arts and Cultural Festival in Albany. In that address, Jeffries complained about “systematic” and “unrelenting” attacks “coming from the Jewish community,” against blacks. “Russian Jewry,” he stated, “had a particular control over the movies, and their financial partners, the Mafia, put together a system of destruction for Black people.” Singling out his Jewish disputants in academia, Jeffries claimed that they were “slick and devilish and dirty and dastardly.” He also denounced Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch as the “ultimate, supreme, sophisticated, debonair racist” and a “Texas Jew.”
In the same speech, Jeffries claimed that he had once headed a Jewish fraternity during his years at Lafayette College, and that his friends and acquaintances on campus had consequently dubbed him “King of the Jews.” But according to the individual who had served as President of Greek Life at Lafayette, no Jewish fraternity had ever existed at the school.
Not all of the’ hatred that Jeffries voiced in his July 20 speech was directed against Jews. After sneering at the “white folks,” the “white boy,” and “the culture of white racism,” he called for a radical re-writing of American history as previously recorded. For starters, Jeffries insisted that the first U.S. President must henceforth be known as “George Washington the slave master bastard Founding Father.” He then offered a historical narrative which held that “America was founded by rich white men with property and power,” and that all of American history amounted to nothing more than “affirmative action for rich white folks with property and power.” Advocating for “African-centered education” that would give no attention to “the devilishness of [Christopher] Columbus” and other purportedly evil whites, Jeffries concluded by urging educators to embrace his proposed “Curriculum of Inclusion.”
Following is a series of particularly significant excerpts — including those cited above as well as others — from Jeffries’ speech in Albany:
- “If the social, economic, political and cultural system of the United States is racist, there’s no way you can insulate and isolate the educational system. So racism in the educational system has to be dealt with. That’s the number-one item that has to be removed before we can have true education. So I think that if we see this enormous struggle against us, it is just another manifestation of racism and white supremacy, and we have to deal with it as that. It seems more vicious because you would think these are not Ku Klux Klan—because they’ve got PhD’s or other things behind their name. But they operate in much the same way, and as far as I’m concerned they have the same VIP: values, interests and principles of white supremacy.”
- “I think we have to understand that although we like to think of education as race-neutral and politically neutral, education is a part of racism.”
- “The legal system was designed to support the system of white supremacy in this nation. The economic system was the heart of this system of white supremacy in this nation. And the cultural system went along with that—movies, all the rest of it. For years—and I grew up as a youngster just like you did, going to movies where the African peoples were completely denigrated. That was a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood, where people called Greenberg and Weisberg and Trigliani and whatnot—it’s not anti-Semitic to mention who developed Hollywood. Their names are there—MGM: Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, Adolph Zukor, Fox. Russian Jewry had a particular control over the movies, and their financial partners, the Mafia, put together a system of destruction for Black people. Talk about self-image and self-esteem? This was an important part of the cultural development of any youth. We went to the movies every Saturday and saw the Native Americans being wiped out and Africans being denigrated: Sambo images, Beaulah, Stepin Fetchit. That’s what they put out there. It was by design. It was calculated.”
- “So we have to see that there is a war against the African. Now, I knew it before, but I didn’t know how devilish it was gonna be or could be. They’re nice white people. You don’t feel so bad if you got to go up against someone who is really down-and-out devilish and doggish. But if you get the smiling people like Diane Ravitch … This is the ultimate, supreme, sophisticated, debonair racist—pure and simple.”
- “Miss Ravitch says that Black people sold Black people into slavery. She doesn’t hesitate to say that. [Professor Arthur] Schlesinger says Black people sold Black people into slavery. Let’s talk about who financed, planned, operated, maintained the slave system. Let’s talk about every slave ship being blessed by a Protestant minister or Catholic priest. Let’s talk about the Catholic Church initiating this. Let’s talk about the Danes, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French, the Scots, the Swedes, The Brandenberg Germans that were involved in the slavery for hundreds of years—Jews and Gentiles, Arabs and Christians. Let’s deal with the whole ball of wax. Let’s not just say that Africans sold Africans into slavery.”
- “In the 1750s and ’60s: one of the largest slavers out of Newport, Rhode Island, a community that had a number of outstanding wealthy Jews who not only controlled a couple of hundred of slave ships … but they controlled most, it not all, of the thirty distilleries that processed molasses from the Caribbean into rum, to be sold to the native Americans as ‘fire water’ and to be sold to Africa, for enslaved Africans.”
- “Even after the Jewish community was persecuted in Spain with the Inquisition in 1492, many of them that converted to Christianity stayed in Spain and helped the Spanish king and queen, who was anti-Semitic (Queen Isabella)—helped her maintain the slave system against the Africans and native Americans.”
- “[G]et a book by Jonathan Israel on European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550–1750. And there’s a picture of the Amsterdam synagogue, which was the center of slave trading for the Dutch. Amsterdam became a leading port in this period of time for slaving. And it was around this synagogue that the slaving system was established.”
- “Now, we’re not talking about most Jews. Most Jews were being beat—up and down Europe—persecuted for being Jewish. We’re talking about rich Jews, and we specifically make that distinction. We’re not talking about white folks in general when we talk about oppression; we’re talking about the wealthy white folks, the powerful white folks that make the decisions.”
- “We are now preparing the ten volumes dealing with the Jewish relationship with the Black community in reference to slavery, so we can put it in the school system.”
- “In Spain there were the Grandees, managing the money of the Spanish throne. In Germany, in the 16 and 1700’s there were the court Jews, managing the political and economic apparatus of Europe, the Hapsburg Empire, the German states, et cetera. We have the names. We know who they were, what they were, what they controlled. We know when they set up the Dutch East Indian Co., Dutch West Indian Co., the Portuguese company, the Brazilian Company. We know who and what documents. We know the family connections. We know that even when they converted to Christianity, they maintained the links with their Jewish community brothers who had not converted; and that’s why they had a network around the world.”
- “[A] number of Jewish scholars from around the country sent me documentation on the Jews’ involvement in [the] slave trade.”
- “[R]ich Jews and the Catholic Church had an alliance for hundreds of years, selling white folks from central, eastern, and southern Europe into slavery in the Arab world—the white slave trade, which is the precursor of enslavement later.”
- “America was founded by rich white men with property and power. It was founded on an affirmative-action program for rich white men with property and power. From the very beginning of the founding of these colonies, rich white men with property and power were given affirmative action and set-asides—whole land set aside for them to develop and whole people set aside to work it for free, including white folks who came as virtual slaves under indentured servitude. There was a set-aside and affirmative action for rich white folks with property and power in the beginning of this nation, and that tradition under the British under the Dutch was maintained. And when independence was established, the independence was established, and the Constitution put in place in 1787 is a document of affirmative action for rich white folks with property and power.”
- “Because we do not have the critical analysis we need … we continue to go around talking about there was a three-fifths clause put in the Constitution and we have three-fifths the rights of white folks. You have no rights in the American constitutional frame of reference. Women have no significant rights. The Constitution does not speak to them and poor whites, men, did not have any significant rights in the Constitution. The Constitution speaks to rich white men with property and power.”
- “[The] three-fifths clause and affirmative action are set aside for the slave owners…. But we still posture our position of democracy as part of the founding process. Democracy came as we struggled to widen the American process to include the most deprived and dispossessed of the people in the system. Our [blacks’] struggle has been the heroic struggle…. We have been the liberating people force in this nation. From day one when we arrived.”
- “And that Constitution: Read it again, two places where it mentions Black folks is the three-fifths clause. And then you’ve got this question of 1808. Eighteen-hundred-eight is the set-aside for rich white men of property and power, the Jeffersons, the Washingtons and the Monroes. A set aside, instead of ending slavery in 1787, which they could have done, if they were lovers of freedom, justice, and equality. Instead of ending the slave trade in 1787, which they could have done, if the Declaration of Independence meant anything to them, we are all men created, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these rights, liberty, pursuit of happiness. If they really believed that they could have instituted a constitution that destroyed these things as the French did. But they did not believe that, because the nation was founded by rich white men of property and power. They put the Constitution and Bill of Rights and everything together, so they set aside 20 years so they continued the slave trade, up until 1808, Set aside so rich white men with property and power to become what has been the basis of this nation. And then they beat up on us about affirmative action and set-asides for what we contribute to America.”
- “[Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician Cheikh Anta] Diop says there is only one human race and it’s the African race. Everything else is a mutation off African genes. That’s the scientific and historical data…. [Dr. Diop] has a concept which he has in his book, called the The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, that you have a southern cradle, around what we can call ‘sun people,’ and you have the northern cradle, around what we can call ‘ice people.'”
Equating Western Civilization with “Barbarism”
Around that same time, the Amsterdam News published a report on yet another recent speech by Jeffries, this one delivered in Harlem, regarding the professor’s thoughts on a so-called “curriculum of liberation.” The article cited a Jeffries quote in which he had said: “Let me clarify my views. [I]f they say we are destroying Western civilization with our [educational] proposals, then I say let it happen quickly, because Western civilization is nothing more than an institutionalized, sophisticated form of barbarism. Wherever the white man has gone, he has left his three D’s: domination, destruction and death. It is for these reasons that we must destroy white supremacy in order to save the planet.”
Jeffries Loses His Post as Black Studies Chairman but Remains a Tenured Professor
After more than a month of subsequent media coverage of Jeffries’ Albany speech and its underlying worldview:
- The City University Faculty Senate voted on September, 19, 1991 to condemn his remarks of July 20.
- On October 27, 1991, City College’s Board of Trustees voted to extend Jeffries’ tenure as chairman of the Black Studies Department by one year rather than the standard three years.
- On March 23, 1992, CUNY’s Board of Trustees voted to remove Jeffries as head of the Department — a decision that Jeffries, accusing CUNY of having violated his right to freedom of speech, challenged in a Manhattan Federal District Court.
- In 1993 the Manhattan federal jury ruled in favor of Jeffries, awarding him $360,000 in damages and reinstating him as chairman of the Black Studies Department.
- The university thereafter appealed the verdict, but the appeals court upheld it in April 1994.
- A month later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in another case, Waters v. Churchill, that a government agency could punish an employee for speech that was predictably disruptive. This ruling prompted New York State Attorney General G. Oliver Koppell to appeal the Jeffries case to the Supreme Court, which in November 1994 ordered the appeals court to reconsider the decision it had rendered seven months earlier.
- In April 1995, the appeals court reversed its April 1994 ruling and determined that the university had been justified in dismissing Jeffries as department chairman.
- When Jeffries’ term as chairman came to an end two months later, the trustees did not reappoint him to that post.
- When Jeffries subsequently tried to plead his case to the Supreme Court, the latter refused to hear his petition.
Though he was not reinstated as the head of CCNY’s Black Studies Department, Jeffries remained at the college as a tenured professor.
Characterizing Jews as “Skunks”
Moreover, he continued to travel to universities across the United States, delivering speeches in which his hatred of Jews and whites revealed itself as fiercely as ever. He once said, for instance, that “Jews are a race of skunks and animals that stole Africa from the Black Man.” On another occasion, in 1994, he similarly likened Jews to “skunks – who stink up the place.”
“Stay Away from Things White”
At a June 14, 2006 “Unity in Diversity” event at the headquarters of New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Jeffries, wearing an African robe with a photograph of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney pinned to it, told a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 100 HPD workers: “My basic rule of thumb is to stay away from things white. Take the whiteness out of your minds, or at least neutralize it with blackness.” During that same speech, the professor lamented: “If every white person in the world dropped dead, the system would continue to go on, because it’s in you now. The system that white folks rule.”
Honoring Tawana Brawley, the Famous Racial Hoaxer
In May 2013, Jeffries was the master of ceremonies for a Paterson, New Jersey event in honor of Tawana Brawley, who, as a 15-year-old in 1987, had made national headlines by falsely claiming — in a case that featured extensive involvement by Al Sharpton — to have been raped and brutalized by six white men in Dutchess County, New York. “Let’s let this young queen Tawana know we love her to death,” said Jeffries. Many of those in attendance contributed money to the Tawana Brawley Defense Fund, to help the girl cover her legal costs for the defamation lawsuit she had lost to former Dutchess County Prosecutor Steven Pagones, whom she had falsely accused of raping her. Brawley had originally owed $190,000 for that false allegation. But because she never paid it, by 2013 that figure had ballooned to more than $430,000 due to the interest that was owed.
In 2012 Jeffries retired from his job as a Professor of Black Studies at CCNY.
Uncle of Hakeem Jeffries
Jeffries is the uncle of Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.