Born in January 1937, Leonard Jeffries is a longtime faculty member at the City College of New York (CCNY) and a onetime head of its Black Studies Department. He is one of the leading proponents of Afrocentrism—a field of study that judges Western civilization to be irredeemably racist and demands a corrective curriculum glorifying African peoples and cultures. A black supremacist, Jeffries claims whites to be genetically inferior to blacks; an inveterate anti-Semite, he apportions to “rich Jews” the blame for everything from the allegedly anti-black content of Hollywood movies to the transatlantic slave trade.
In 1988 Professor Jeffries was appointed by then-New York State Education Commissioner Thomas Sobol to help draft a report recommending an expanded focus on “multiculturalism” in the state’s K-12 curricula. Jeffries’ influence was everywhere in evidence in the final report. Reading more like a polemic than a scholarly assessment, the report claimed 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 title of the report was: “A Curriculum of Inclusion.”
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 host of anti-white theories that Jeffries routinely advanced in one of his classes, Black Studies 101. Jeffries had been teaching at CCNY since 1972, when he was tapped to head the Black Studies department and was almost instantly granted tenure, thanks in no small part to a CCNY administration determined to appease a surging militancy among blacks on campus. Jeffries had little or no standard peer-reviewed scholarship to his name at the time he was granted tenure — or, for that matter, since.
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 raised as the only Holocaust.”
Jeffries also used his class to retail his decidedly supremacist theory of human evolution. Blacks, according to Jeffries, were “sun people,” the culturally and racially superior counterparts of whites, the “ice people.”
Speaking at the taxpayer-funded Empire State Black Arts and Cultural Festival in Albany, New York in July 1991, Jeffries complained about a “systematic” and “unrelenting” attack “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 denounced Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch as the “ultimate, supreme, sophisticated, debonair racist” and a “Texas Jew.”
During the same speech, Jeffries said that he had once headed a Jewish fraternity in college. Boasting that he had then been known as “King of the Jews,” he claimed that the fraternity’s members had relied on a “system of support” to cheat their way to academic success. Stated Jeffries: “The whole average of the fraternity was a Dean’s list average, even dumb Jews made it, because there was a system of support.” But according to the President of Greek Life at the college that Jeffries attended (Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania), the school has never had a Jewish fraternity.
Not all of Jeffries’ hatred was directed against Jews. After sneering at the “white folks,” the “white boy,” and “the culture of white racism,” Jeffries called for a radical re-writing of American history as previously recorded. For starters, he 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 evil whites, Jeffries concluded by urging educators to embrace his “curriculum of inclusion.”
The response was immediate: Michele Wallace, a professor in the CCNY English Department called Jeffries a “maniac.” Under public fire, the college was compelled to take action. In March of 1992, the Board of Trustees voted to remove Jeffries as head of the Black Studies Department. Contemptuous of his critics — in his Albany speech Jeffries had spoken with derision of “my Jews at City College” — Jeffries refused to accept the trustees’ decision, challenging it in the Federal District Court in Manhattan on free speech grounds. The legal battle would rage until April 1995, when an appeals court, reversing an earlier ruling, upheld Jeffries’ dismissal as department head.
Though he was not reinstated as the head of the Black Studies Department, Jeffries remains at the college as a tenured professor. Moreover, he continues to travel to universities across the United States, delivering speeches in which his hatred of Jews and whites reveals itself as fiercely as ever. In recent years he has said that “Jews are a race of skunks and animals that stole Africa from the Black Man.”
Jeffries is also doing his utmost to help cultivate the next generation of black supremacists. Convinced that America is founded on a “system of white supremacy,” he has urged his black supporters to adopt a “revolutionary posture” and oppose both the Republicans and the Democrats, whose shared agenda, according to Jeffries, is the “destruction of the black community.”
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 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 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 originally owed $190,000 for the suit, but she never paid it; the amount had ballooned to more than $430,000 with interest.