As It Happens

Black activist who took over neo-Nazi group plans to stream Schindler's List on its website

Black civil rights activist James Hart Stern is already getting to work as the new president of one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the United States.

James Stern plans to hold the NSM accountable for Charlottesville, then dismantle it altogether

James Hart Stern says he convinced the leader of America's oldest neo-Nazi group to hand him the reigns. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)
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Black civil rights activist James Hart Stern is already getting to work as the new president of one America's largest neo-Nazi groups.

​The Mississippi reverend who took the helm of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) says he plans to hold the group accountable for its actions at a violent white nationalist rally last year, dismantle the organization completely and, finally, use its website to stream movies about slavery and the Holocaust.

"I did take possession of the organization, but it was strictly for the purpose of making sure that its 45 years of reigning terror on humanity will be over," Stern told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"I don't want to lead it. I'm not leading it. I'm dismantling it."

Founded in 1974 as the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement, the NSM is known for carrying out protests with members in full Nazi regalia.

It is one several extremist groups being sued over bloodshed at a deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

'Don't dissolve it ... give it to a black man'

Stern took over the NSM from its former leader, Jeff Schoep.

The neo-Nazi leader appears to have gone silent since the transfer of power. He did not respond to several requests for comment from The Associated Press, but a post under his name on a Russian social media site claims Stern tricked him.

Stern says he and Schoep have been chatting off and on for over five years, and that the neo-Nazi leader was planning to disband the group so he couldn't be held liable in the Charlottesville lawsuit.

"That scared me," Stern said. "If he dissolved that, anybody could have picked it up and re-incorporated again and carried on the same shenanigans that's gone on for 45 years." 

Instead, Stern says he convinced Schoep to hand the reins over to him.

Former National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Schoep speaks during a white nationalist rally in Newnan, Ga., on April 21, 2018. (Bita Honarvar/AFP/Getty Images)

"I said, 'I'll tell you what, if you want to try to prove to the world that you won't use the organization anymore, don't dissolve it so someone else can use it — give it to a black man, me. If I get it, you know I'm not going to use it anymore.'"

"He desperately tried to make some strategic manoeuvres that backfired on him," Stern said. "And I had no problem accepting his stupidity and took advantage of it for humanity's sake to get rid of the group."

Now, if anyone tries to raise the NSM from its ashes, Stern says they'll promptly be served with a cease-and-desist order. 

Stern's first order of business was to ask a judge to find the NSM guilty of committing violence at the rally. He filed a request for summary judgment against his own group on Thursday. 

"It is the decision of the National Socialist Movement to plead liable to all causes of actions listed in the complaint against it," he wrote.

BlacKkKlansman

When it comes to disbanding hate groups from the inside, this isn't Stern's first rodeo. 

While serving time in prison for mail fraud, Stern famously befriended KKK leader Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted in the so-called Mississippi Burning killings of three civil rights workers.

In 2012, Stern announced that Killen had signed over to him power of attorney and ownership of 40 acres of land.

In this 2012 picture, James Hart Stern of Jackson, Miss., shows documents that allege reputed Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen gave him power of attorney while they were cellmates at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

"He did it not as a trusted move. He did it as a way of knowing that he was going to die in prison. He had 60 years and he was mad at his family members and other folks, and so I was in the right place at the right time and he gave it to me," Stern said.

A lawyer for Killen later asked a judge to throw out the land transfer, alleging Stern had forged the documents. But the case was dismissed in 2015, according to court documents Stern shared with As It Happens. 

In 2016, Stern used his powers to disband the Mississippi branch of the KKK.

Killen died in 2018.

The internet's newest streaming site 

Stern's next order of business? A curriculum change on the NSM's website.

"We're going to be actually for the first time streaming on it movies to educate people on the truth about racism. We're going to put movies like Schindler's List on there, Amistad, Roots and any other movies that's going to be coming our way," he said,

"I called on the Jewish community to work with me on this so they can give me the education and different recommendations of things that need to be put on this website to help teach people about the truth about what the Jewish people have gone through in the atrocities and genocide against them."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Associated Press. Produced by Allie Jaynes.