Without notifying his followers or even his inner circle, the longtime president of a legacy neo-Nazi group has signed over its control to a black civil rights activist from California.
James Hart Stern, a 54-year-old with a history of infiltrating white supremacist groups, is the new leader of the National Socialist Movement. And his first move as president was to address a pending lawsuit against the neo-Nazi group by asking a Virginia judge to find it guilty of conspiring to commit violence at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
Next, he plans to transform the hate group’s website into a space for Holocaust history lessons.
“I did the hard and dangerous part,” Stern told The Washington Post in his first interview since taking over the National Socialist Movement. “As a black man, I took over a neo-Nazi group and outsmarted them.”
For weeks, the sudden change in power has confounded those who study hate groups and perplexed those within the organization, who have heard nothing from the man who led the Detroit-based hate group for 24 years, former NSM president Jeff Schoep.
Schoep has yet to publicly speak on the shake up, but Stern is finally filling in the blanks. On Friday, the activist shared the full story of his unconventional rise to power — an “epic” tale, he said, that includes infiltration, persuasion and a hint of manipulation.
There’s a reason, he said, that some call him the “race whisperer.”
To understand how Stern came to overtake Schoep’s organization, you first must understand how the Michigan neo-Nazi came to find the California activist.
While serving prison time in Mississippi for mail fraud, Stern formed a relationship with his cellmate and onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen. The KKK leader had been convicted in the “Mississippi Burning” killings of three civil rights workers. Though Killen regularly called Stern a racial slur, he nevertheless granted his cellmate power of attorney over his life story and estate.
Stern was parolled from prison in 2011, and in 2016 he used his legal discretion to dissolve the Klan organization Killen once led.
This was his first successful infiltration — and the lore of Stern’s relationship with the KKK leader is what first drew Schoep in.
SOURCE: Katie Mettler
The Washington Post