Princeton Professor of African American Studies cancels talk over death threats

She received ‘specific threats of violence, including murder’

Princeton Professor of African American Studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has canceled lectures at Seattle’s Town Hall and at the University of California, San Diego this week, after receiving death threats and racist emails.

She says she is canceling the appearances out of “fear of my safety and my family’s safety,” after receiving emails containing “specific threats of violence, including murder.”

The threats were apparently prompted by a commencement speech she gave last week in which she called Donald Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac” – and its subsequent reporting by Fox News.

In her statement Taylor says:

“My speech at Hampshire was applauded but Fox News did not like it. Last week, the network ran a story on my speech, describing it as an “anti-POTUS tirade.” Fox ran an online story about my speech and created a separate video of excerpts of my speech, which included my warning to graduates about the world they were graduating into. I argued that Donald Trump, the most powerful politician in the world, is “a racist and sexist megalomaniac,” who poses a threat to their future.

Shortly after the Fox story and video were published, my work email was inundated with vile and violent statements. I have been repeatedly called “nigger,” “bitch,” “cunt,” “dyke,” “she-male,” and “coon” — a clear reminder that racial violence is closely aligned with gender and sexual violence. I have been threatened with lynching and having the bullet from a .44 Magnum put in my head. I am not a newsworthy person. Fox did not run this story because it was “news,” but to incite and unleash the mob-like mentality of its fringe audience, anticipating that they would respond with a deluge of hate-filled emails — or worse. The threat of violence, whether it is implied or acted on, is intended to intimidate and to silence.”

The full statement is on the Haymarket Books Facebook page. It ends with a call “to build a massive movement against racism, sexism, and bigotry in this country.” Taylor writes: “I remain undaunted in my commitment to that project.”

Taylor addressed the commencement ceremonies at Hampshire College last week. There, she spoke about racism entrenched in policies pertaining to drug-related arrests and housing practices.

According to a University website, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Haymarket Books, 2016), which examines the history and politics of Black America and the development of the social movement Black Lives Matter  police violence in the United States.

One Princeton alumnus commented under her statement: “To the defenders of free speech on college campuses and in the public sphere: Will you speak out against the deplorable threats of violence against Prof. Taylor, just as vehemently as you have spoken out against what you have argued were attempts to suppress others’ speech? Will you speak out against the deplorable threats that have caused the cancellation of her talks and the suppression of her ability to make her remarks?” 

Princeton’s Department of African American Studies condemned the threats and ongoing harassment of Professor Taylor.

“We reject any effort to silence Professor Taylor or the principled intellectual tradition she represents,” said a statement. “We share her unwavering commitment to speak and write truthfully about the state of the nation and the failures of its political leaders to act in the service of justice, equality, and the betterment of our common humanity…

“We denounce these acts of racial, gender, and sexual violence and the efforts to intimidate and harass Professor Taylor. Her ideas deserve the widest possible audience, free from threat or intimidation.

“Professor Taylor, the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and the book in progress Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s, is a brilliant and innovative scholar of inequality, segregation, and American public policy. Her meticulous, award-winning research on the history and politics of Black America is a model and Professor Taylor has earned the widespread respect of both her peers and her students for her painstaking scholarship, passionate teaching, and advocacy for a better world rooted in both. We support her whole-heartedly.”

And in response to our request for comment, Princeton Open Campus Coalition posted:

“Because of death threats, Princeton Professor of African-American Studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor cancelled lectures at Seattle’s Town Hall and at the University of California at San Diego earlier this week.

“The threats appear to have been prompted by a commencement speech delivered by Professor Taylor last week, in which, speaking to graduates of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., she called President Donald Trump a ‘racist, sexist megalomaniac.’

“Professor Taylor proceeded to outline how she believes the President’s rhetoric and policy harms America and the American people. In return, however, she was subjected to a hateful array of slurs that were accompanied not by evidence-based reasoning, but by threats of all manner of violence, including murder.

“Threats of violence designed to silence public discourse are utterly contemptible and have no place in civilized society. POCC extends its support to Professor Taylor and hopes those responsible for this undue intimidation are swiftly brought to justice.”

Princeton University