Carol M. Swain

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Carol M. Swain is a Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, to which she came, in 1999, from a tenured associate professorship at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. and a blogger on the Huffingon Post, as well as a frequent guest on radio and television, including Lou Dobbs' former show on CNN. She defended Dobbs against what she believes to be politically motivated attacks by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).[1] She is a member of the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

She rose from humble roots, married at age sixteen and one of twelve children raised in extreme rural poverty in Bedford, Virginia.[2]

She has also been on BBC World News, NPR, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Fox News Live, PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The Washington Journal and ABC’s Headline News. Her columns have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times and USA Today.

Her fields of interest includes representation, immigration, evangelical politics and race relations. One of her books, Black Faces was cited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Johnson v. DeGrandy (1994) and by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in Georgia v. Ashcroft (2003).

American politics

SPLC had designated, in 2000, the New Black Panther Party as a hate group. During the November 2008 elections, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges of voter intimidation against it. The Justice Department, in the Obama Administration, dropped charges without SPLC comment.

She wrote that the SPLC had spent more time hounding conservative organizations, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, and prominent citizens like CNN's award-winning anchor Lou Dobbs, than it has protecting the civil rights of American voters, which includes white people as well as black. ... There is a name for what has happened. It is called "mission creep." Mission creep occurs when an organization strays beyond its original purpose and engages in actions antithetical to its goals. Rather than monitoring hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center has become one."[1]

SPLC's Mark Potok called her an "apologist for white supremacists," and columnist James Taranto, who has had a continuing dialogue with her, investigated. The core of the accusation was Swain's defense of a documentary, "A Conversation on Race". It was called by SPLC's Sonia Scherr, in an Oct. 8 entry on the organization's Hatewatch blog, describes it as "a hit among white supremacists looking for a smart-sounding defense of their beliefs" and argues points made by the filmmaker, Craig Bodeker. The SPLC criticism were drawn from Bodeker quotes on YouTube, not the film. Her endorsement of the film was made before the comments surfaced.[3]


  • B.A., Roanoke College, 1983
  • M.A., Virginia Polytechnic & State Univ., 1984
  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1989
  • MLS, Yale Law School, 2000
  • member of Phi Beta Kappa


  1. 1.0 1.1 Carol M. Swain (10 August 2009), "Mission Creep and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Misguided Focus", Huffington Post
  2. Biography, Carol M. Swain
  3. James Taranto (26 October 2009), "In Defense of Carol Swain: A black scholar gets smeared as "an apologist for white supremacists."", Wall Street Journal