Carol Miller Swain (born March 7, 1954) [101] [7] is an American political scientist, former professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, and former television host. She is the author or editor of six books. Her scholarly work has been cited by two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Her fields are race relations, immigration, representation, evangelical politics, and the United States Constitution. Her views on race and Islam have attracted national attention in the media.

Early life

Carol Miller Swain was born in Bedford, Virginia in 1954. [7] [8] [10] Her father dropped out of school in the third grade and her mother dropped out in high school. [101] Her stepfather used to beat up her mother, Dorothy Henderson, who is disabled due to infantile paralysis. [4] Swain grew up in poverty, living in a shack without running water, and sharing two beds with her eleven siblings. [101] The second of twelve children, she did not have shoes and thus missed school whenever it snowed. [101] She did not attend high school, dropping out in ninth grade. [101] [4] She moved to Roanoke with her family in the 1960s and appealed to a judge to be transferred to a foster home, which was denied; Swain instead lived with her grandmother in a trailer park. [101] She and her sibilings had to sleep on the floor. [143]

After she got divorced in 1975, Swain earned a GED and worked as a cashier at McDonald's, door-to-door salesperson and assistant in a retirement facility to pay for it. [101] She later gained an associate degree from Virginia Western Community College. [8] [10] She went on to complete a magna cum laude B.A. in criminal justice from Roanoke College and a master's degree in political science from Virginia Tech. [8] [10] While an undergraduate at Roanoake College she organized a scholarship fund for black students that by 2002 had an endowment of $350,000. [101] She finished a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989. [101] [8] [10] In 2000 she earned a master's degree in law from Yale Law School. [8] [10]

Academic career

Swain received tenure as an associate professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University. [8] [10] [11] Since 1999, she has taught political science and law at Vanderbilt University. [8] [11]

Her first academic book, Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress , was published by the Harvard University Press in 1993. It was reviewed in many academic journals, including The Georgia Historical Quarterly (the journal of the Georgia Historical Society), [102] Political Science Quarterly , The Journal of Politics , Public Choice , the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management , the American Political Science Review (the journal of the American Political Science Association), etc. The book was cited by Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor, two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. It was the recipient of the D.B. Hardeman Prize as well as the American Political Science Association's Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award. [30]

In 1996, she edited a collection of essays entitled Race Versus Class: The New Affirmative Action Debate . [8]

Her third book was The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration , published in 2002. [31] [114] [115] [117] [118] [120] [121] [122] [124] The book prophesied the rise of the so-called alt-right (New White Nationalism), an amorphous political movement, Professor Swain said, which was born from feeling "that white peoples' rights were being trampled and that no one was speaking up and listening to their grievances." Swain foresaw the potential for the racial double-standard argument to resonate with a new generation of young people, hence her term in the book title, The New White Nationalism , a moniker designed to make a distinction between the previous White Supremacy movement. [125]

In 2003, she edited Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism with Princeton University Professor Russell K. Nieli. [126] It was reviewed in Rhetoric and Public Affairs [127] and The Journal of Southern History . [129]

In 2011, she released Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise , published by Thomas Nelson. [7] She explained she wrote the book as a response to "the ungodly direction" of the United States. [46]

Swain has written op-eds in The New York Times , Wall Street Journal , The Huffington Post , [47] and USA Today . Past media appearances include ABC News, CNN, and Fox News. [48] She testified before Congress alongside comedian Stephen Colbert in 2010. [7]

She served as an advisor to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission [49] and she was a member of the National Council on the Humanities. [50] She served on the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, Roanoke College. [9] She is a foundation member of the Nu of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. [8]

She is a Founding Director of the Veritas Institute. [51] She was a Visiting Fellow at the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University from 2004 to 2005. [51] [51] [52] She was also a Visiting Copenhaver Scholar at Roanoke College. [10] She has participated in conferences and radio programs organized by the Family Research Council (FRC). [53] [54] She also did a book signing event for Be the People at the FRC in 2011. [55] In 2013, she spoke at a Tea Party rally in Lebanon, Tennessee alongside Republican state Congressman Mark Pody. [56] On November 15, 2013, she also spoke about immigration reform a panel entitled "Doing Good to the Stranger and the Citizen: Evangelicals Discuss Immigration Reform" at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. [57]

In November 2015, Vanderbilt University students started a petition on, asking administrators to terminate her from teaching and require her to attend diversity training sessions. The students accused Swain of becoming, "synonymous with bigotry, intolerance, and unprofessionalism." [60] [61] The petition garnered over 1,000 signatures within days. [60] She responded by calling those students, "...sad and pathetic, in the sense that they're college students and they should be open to hearing more than one viewpoint." [60] [61] The petition underwent some revisions that changed to asking administrators to only suspend Swain and requiring all professors to attend diversity training. [62] Meanwhile, Nicholas S. Zeppos, the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, issued a statement saying that while Swain's views are not the same as the university's, the university is committed to free speech and academic freedom. Additionally, a pro-Swain petition was started by her supporters, who suggested the student petition was "reminiscent of China's Cultural Revolution, when student Red Guards made false and ridiculous accusations against their professors." [64]

In January 2017, Swain announced that she would retire from Vanderbilt in August, and stated, "I will not miss what American universities have allowed themselves to become". [130] After a series of racial protests erupted in the Summer of 2017, [131] Swain's writings on race relations in America hained the attention of the media, which noted the irony of her retirement at a time when her work was proving most prescient. One article dubbed Swain, , and drew attention to the relevance of her research from over a decade ago. Swain, who was interviewed in the article, commented on the complexity of the issue, and that she could have capitalized on the predictive accuracy of her books about race from fifteen years earlier. But she noted that the movement is more complex than that and does not view President Trump as a white nationalist." [132]

Be the People talk show

Between October 2012 and July 2014, she was the host of Be the People , a weekly television talk which used paid programming time to air on Sundays on WSMV-TV and WZTV in the Nashville area. [66] [67] [68]

Views on race

In 2002, Swain argued against reparations for American descendants of African slaves during an event at Delaware State University, a historically black university. [69] However, in 2005, she wrote an op ed in The Washington Post calling for the Republican Party to offer a formal apology to American citizens of African descent for the institution of slavery. She also wrote a policy document about it for the Heartland Institute. [71] When the apology happened in June 2009, during the presidency of Barack Obama, she called it "meaningless." She expressed disappointment that it did not happen under President George W. Bush, when the Republicans were in power, arguing that "It would have shed that racist scab on the party."

In October 2009, the SPLC mentioned Swain in a critique of A Conversation About Race , a documentary directed by Craig Bodeker that contended that racism was not an issue in America. The SPLC stated that the film had been well-received among white supremacist organizations, and the film's director had granted interviews to white supremacist publications to promote the film. The SPLC noted that Swain was one of the few mainstream figures who had endorsed the film. [76] Swain stated that the content of the film could be effectively used in social science classes to encourage debate. [133] Swain called the SPLC article a smear, and contended that the SPLC was retaliating against her because she had previously criticized the organization in a blog entry on the Huffington Post. [134]

Swain called the re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012, "a very scary situation". [7] In April 2012, she argued that civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had used the death of Trayvon Martin for political gains in order to increase voter registration for the Democratic Party. [79] In July 2013, she contextualized Trayvon Martin's death by reminding listeners that black-on-white crimes, especially when groups of black youths attack a lone white person, are underreported in the media. A month later, she criticized Martin's mother for failing to address the issues of black-on-black crime rates, unemployment and abortion in black communities. [81]

In 2013, when she was asked if Jesus was black or white, she responded that the issue was "irrelevant." [82] She added, "Whether He’s white, black, Hispanic, whatever you want to call Him, what’s important is that people find meaning in His life." [82]

In the wake of the 2015 Charleston church shooting, Swain suggested the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State Capitol might exacerbate tensions between blacks and whites, [83] adding that "It was easy to focus on the flag, as opposed to the issues that have divided blacks and whites historically." [84]

In July 2016, Swain criticized Black Lives Matter, suggesting it was "a Marxist organization" and "a very destructive force in America." [135] [136] She reiterated that it was "pure Marxism" and concluded that it "needs to go". [135] [136]

In August 2016, Swain appeared in Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party , a documentary about the history of the Democratic Party, from slavery to Jim Crow and welfare dependency, directed by Dinesh D'Souza. [137]

Swain supported Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for president. [138] She also said David Duke's endorsement of Trump was a "non-issue". [139]

Views on Islam

On January 16, 2015, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Swain [85] wrote an op-ed criticizing Islam in The Tennessean . [86] [87] She argued:

Islam is not like other religions in the United States[;] it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored. ... If America is to be safe, it must ... institute serious monitoring of Islamic organizations.

Carol M. Swain, The Tennessean (January 16, 2015) [86]

Following her comments some Vanderbilt students held a protest, [88] accusing Swain of engaging in " hate speech " [87] and said more protests would be held unless the University implemented a policy to "promise its students protection from being attacked by faculty members." [87] [89] [90]

On January 19, Judson Phillips, another conservative activist, wrote an op ed in The Washington Times in defense of Swain's remarks. [91] [92] [93] That same day, a piece by Vanderbilt professor David J. Wasserstein, titled "Thoughtful views on Islam needed, not simplicity," was published in the Tennessean in response to Swain's piece. [94]

On January 23, 2015, The Tennessean published another opinion piece, titled "Anti-Islam op-ed distorts reality, could harm people," by Randy Horick countering Swain's views. [95]

In February 2015, Swain filed a police complaint after she received a sexually harassing package from an address in Portland, Oregon in retaliation for her op-ed. [96] She added she no longer felt safe on the campus of Vanderbilt University ​ . [96]

On May 8th of 2018, Women In Numbers unendorsed Carol Swain after the organization supported Dr. Judy Cummings in the 2018 election. [144]


  • Steven Feazel; Carol M. Swain (2016). Abduction: How Liberalism Steals Our Children's Hearts and Minds . Christian Faith Publishing. ISBN 978-1635251463.
  • Carol M. Swain (2011). Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith and Promise . Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-0849948282.

Personal life

Swain married at the age of sixteen and had two sons and one daughter. [101] Her daughter died of sudden infant death syndrome. [101] Upon being divorced five years later, Swain attempted to commit suicide by swallowing pills. [101] During this period she was a Jehovah's Witness. [101] According to the Nashville Scene , "As a young girl, Swain became a devout Jehovah's Witness. At the time, many in that church believed that the world would end in 1975. Swain was among them. ..." [4] In 1998 Swain was baptized into the Pentecostal faith after hearing an "internal voice" when she thought she was dying at a hospital. [5] [6] In 2017 Swain served as a Citizen's Committee member for the 43rd Annual Tennessee Prayer Breakfast [140] and as a board member for the Nashville Youth for Christ. [141]