Liberal Arts Forum to present ‘Diversity Lessons from a Black Klan Whisperer’ with Daryl Davis on Feb. 20

The Liberal Arts Forum is bringing Howard University graduate and musician Daryl Davis to campus on Feb. 20, 2024. Davis will share his experiences with KKK and white supremacist leaders and the power of conversations with people who hold beliefs different from our own.

Each semester the Liberal Arts Forum votes on two speakers to visit Elon University and share their experiences and expertise on a variety of topics. This Spring, Daryl Davis is speaking about his experiences as a Black man who attends Ku Klux Klan rallies and regularly converses with white supremacist leaders. Be part of the conversation this Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Whitley Auditorium.

Daryl Davis

Daryl Davis grew up as the child of U.S. Foreign Service members. He did not experience American racism until he moved back to the United States and was marching in a Cub Scout parade in Massachusetts. Davis did not understand why people were throwing rocks and bottles at him. He didn’t believe his parents when they explained racism to him after the event. The question that has continued to drive Davis since then is “How could someone hate me when they didn’t even know me?”

Before being known as a “Klan Whisperer,” Davis was known for being a jazz musician. He met his first Klan member at one of his performances. The man would sit and talk with Davis after his shows and they would visit each other’s homes. Eventually, Davis decided to interview Klan leader Roger Kelly. His secretary set up a meeting without telling Kelly that Davis was a Black man. The first conversation was tense and involved a miscommunication over noise from the ice in the fridge. As Davis said in an interview with Garrett Walker from Harvard International Review, “Ignorance breeds fear, fear breeds hatred, hatred breeds anger, anger breeds destruction.” His goal is to start conversations with a foundation of mutual respect.

Davis listens to Klansmen’s beliefs and views and then meets them with respect. He takes down their walls by really hearing them and challenging their beliefs by simply being himself. These conversations have successfully convinced over 200 Klansmen to leave the KKK because “We human beings all want the same things. We want to be respected. We want to be loved. We want to be heard. And we want the same thing for our families as everybody else wants for their families.”

Attend the Liberal Arts Forum event and learn more about the effect the past has on today and how we can work towards a more understanding future.