Slow Burn: David Duke

Season 4: Episode 2

Robe and Ritual

How David Duke used the Ku Klux Klan to sell his message, and himself.


Episode Notes

David Duke dreamed of becoming the charismatic leader who’d bring racism to the masses. He tried to make that dream a reality by seizing on America’s most powerful symbol of white supremacist terror.

On the second episode of Slow Burn’s fourth season: what David Duke’s years as a leader in the Ku Klux Klan reveal about his beliefs and ambitions, and why Duke decided to leave the Klan behind.

Season 4 of Slow Burn is produced by Josh Levin and Christopher Johnson. Mixing by Paul Mounsey. Slow Burn’s production assistant is Madeline Ducharme and Sophie Summergrad is the podcast’s assistant producer.

Sources for This Episode


Bridges, Tyler. The Rise and Fall of David Duke, University Press of Mississippi, 2018 (originally published in 1994).

Saslow, Eli. Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, Anchor Publishing, 2018.


Anderson, Bob and Roger Tanner. “Jews, blacks lambasted at heated Alley,” Daily Reveille, Nov. 13, 1969.

Bouie, Jamelle. “Keep Hope Alive,” Slate, Nov. 27, 2016.

Buck, Jerry. “Tom Snyder: Talk show host who tells it like it is,” Associated Press, May 29, 1974.

“The Crusader #4,” Fall 1974, University Archives and Special Collections, California State University: Fullerton.

“The Crusader #5,” Fall 1974, University Archives and Special Collections, California State University: Fullerton.

Delmont, Matthew. “The Lasting Legacy of the Busing Crisis,” the Atlantic, March 29, 2016.

Extremist Group Profile: Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Southern Poverty Law Center.

Extremist Profile: David Duke, Southern Poverty Law Center.

Extremist Profile: Don Black, Southern Poverty Law Center.

Folk, Candy. “Alley serves as campus soapbox,” Daily Reveille, Feb. 3, 1970.

“Free Speech Alley at LSU Is Proving Noisy Place,” Baton Rouge State-Times, Dec. 8, 1964.

Gaffney-Gorman, Bertha. “KKK Leader Seeks New Image for Organization,” the Sacramento Bee, Aug. 8, 1978.

Guilbeau, Glenn. “LSU’s special season has its roots in Temple,” Shreveport Times, April 3, 2006.

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Jesse Jackson: One Leader Among Many,” Time, April 6, 1970.

Jordan, Pat. “The Duke of Deception,” Southern Magazine, October 1987.

Jordan, Pat. “Evolution of a Bigot,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Feb. 10, 1991.

Kifner, John. “Violence Mars Busing in Boston,” New York Times, Sept. 13, 1974.

King, Wayne. “Klan Radio Ads Seek Public Support,” New York Times, Nov. 24, 1975.

King, Wayne. “Leader Says Klan, Not Black, Wrote ‘Attack’ Book,” New York Times, Feb. 20, 1978.

Klein, Joe. “The KKK Comes to Southie,” the Real Paper, Oct. 2, 1974.

Klemesrud, Judy. “Women in Ku Klux Klan Move Into the Male Power Structure,” New York Times, May 22, 1975.

Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism and Violence,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 1, 2011.

Laurent, Lawrence. “Tom Snyder’s secret: just sit and listen,” Washington Post, May 23, 1976.

Maraniss, David. “Duke’s Obsession: White Supremacy with a Plan,” Washington Post, Nov. 10, 1991.

Marcello, Victor L. “When Duke Was a Young, Neo-Nazi Orator,” New York Times, Nov. 15, 1991.

Murphy, J. Douglas. “‘White Power’ Cry at Rally of Klansmen,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 6, 1975.

Repeat performances,” Daily Reveille, Sept. 25, 1970.

Rothman, Joshua. “When Bigotry Paraded Through the Streets,” the Atlantic, Dec. 4, 2016.

Salter, Jim. “Missouri executes white supremacist serial killer,” Associated Press, Nov. 20, 2013.

“Self-Styled Klan Leader Tells of Recent Trip to South Boston,” Baton Rouge State-Times, Oct. 2, 1974.

Snyder, David. “The ‘Nazi’ of LSU … head of the Klan,” New Orleans States-Item, May 26, 1975.

Spears, Marc J. “Inside Collis Temple’s historic struggle as LSU’s first black basketball player,” the Undefeated, Feb. 8, 2017.

Terry, Don. “Hatewatch Exclusive: Racist Serial Killer, Facing Death, Recants,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Oct. 17, 2013.

Thomas, Susan and Bob Dunnavant. “Duke Quitting Klan Following ‘Sale’ Failure,” Nashville Tennessean, July 24, 1980.

Thompson, Jerry and Robert Sherborne and Susan Thomas. “Klan’s Wilkinson Secretly Fed Information to FBI,” Nashville Tennessean, Aug. 30, 1981.

Wise, Mike. “Garrett Temple Plays His Role in Historic Basketball Family,” Sports Illustrated, Feb. 28, 2019.

Worsham, Cody. “The Temple Life,” Tiger Rag, June 28, 2016.


David Duke, Metairie, LA, interview 2, 1985-03-20, Evelyn Rich Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

David Duke and the Modern Movement

How the former KKK leader tried to learn from his mistakes to mentor the next generation of white nationalists in America.


About the Show

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a white supremacist became an American political phenomenon. David Duke’s rise to power and prominence—his election to the Louisiana Legislature, and then his campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the governorship—was an existential crisis for the state and the nation. The fourth season of Slate’s Slow Burn will explore how a Nazi sympathizer and former Klansman fashioned himself into a mainstream figure, and why some voters came to embrace his message. It will also examine how activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens confronted Duke’s candidacy, and what it took to stop him.

The season is hosted by Josh Levin, a longtime Slow Burn editor and native Louisianian.

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