Child of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard now an anti-racist activist, openly transgender

Black wants people to know one thing: change is achievable.

June 18, 2024, 2:15 PM

The child of a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan was once allegedly seen as the heir to the white nationalist movement. But along the way Derek Black says they had a change of heart and is now dedicating their life to anti-racist activism.

In a new book, "The Klansman's Son: My Journey from White Nationalism to Anti-Racism," Black, the child of Don Black and godchild of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, shares their unique perspective on her upbringing, her departure from a racist organization and becoming transgender.

"The reason I was ready to write it was because I wanted to share what I knew; that this wasn't just a story of a few random people who made weird choices," Black said. "They grew up in the Civil Rights Movement, and they joined the other side."

Black was first introduced to the public when she was 10 years old, appearing on "The Jenny Jones Show" in 1999 along with her father to discuss their white nationalist website.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke speaks to supporters at a reception, May 29, 2004, in Kenner, Louisiana.
Burt Steel/AP Photo

Black describes that moment as a tough time on a deep emotional level, and says it's difficult to look at old videos of themselves back then because she believed it defined everything she had to become.

In her book, Black writes, "In Charlottesville, led by people I knew with anti-racist friends in the crowd opposing them, I felt horrified and implicated."

"It was just this like feeling of like, "I do not know what the future holds," Black said. "Also, the president at the time argued that there were very good people on both sides. And I think January 6 had a lot of echoes of Charlottesville and a lot of the same people at both of them."

She also wrote that a few days after Sen. Barack Obama won his first presidential election in November, Duke called Black the heir to the white nationalist movement at his 2008 conference in Memphis.

"It was a complicated relationship, though, and was really based in politics, and we really have not maintained that relationship," Black said.

After the release of Black's memoir, Duke stated that he believed in equal rights and denied ever calling Black an "heir."

VIDEO: Former white nationalist discusses new memoir

According to Black, she was never forced to become a klansman. She naturally embraced the lifestyle, but it took years for her to stop believing in the system. The turning point for Black was when she went to college in Florida and found a diverse community of friends she considered family. Within this group, Black also met the love of their life — wife Allison.

"She was the person who really changed things," Black said. "I showed up at college. I was there for a semester before people knew my background, And when they did find out, I realized that these relationships have become so deep and so intense, and these people had every right to feel betrayed. And that just made me really look at like, "Oh, who am I?"

Don Black told ABC News that he has had the strongest feelings of dismay not from Derek denouncing his white nationalist beliefs, but for their decision to come out as transgender.

Don Black told ABC News that Derek was never forced to do anything and finds their coming out as transgender to be over the top, but hopes one day “Derek comes back to the family.”

As readers embark on the book, Derek Black wants them to remember one thing: change is achievable.

"People can 100% change very fundamental things about their beliefs, their world, who they see themselves as," Black said. "Everything really is just about your relationships with people and making sure that you're not so loyal to somebody that you're willing to hurt anyone else."