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Al Sharpton

Tennessee State University

Reverend Al Sharpton is a professor at Tennessee State University who was hired as a “distinguished guest lecturer.” As head of the National Action Network, Sharpton has been accused of a number of dubious financial practices. He has allegedly solicited millions in donations from corporations in exchange for refraining from labeling their actions racist and organizing boycotts of their products. It has also been reported that Sharpton owes millions in unpaid taxes to the IRS while paying himself as much as seven figures from his own charity.

Sharpton first leapt to national recognition when he publicly defended the family of Tawana Brawly–an African-American teenager that had accused 4 white men of gang-rape–and specifically accused prosecutor Steve Pagones of raping Brawly without any evidence. A jury later determined that Brawly had faked her accusation to avoid punishment for running away from her home. Sharpton was successfully sued for defamation by Pagones but refused to pay until his supporters raised the funds for him. Sharpton has never issued an apology to Pagones.


Following the case, Sharpton became embroiled in the Crown Heights Riots. Just days before the violence erupted in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood, he was caught on tape telling Jews too, “pin back their yarmulkes.”

In the instance that sparked the riots, a Jewish driver hit two black boys when his car jumped onto the sidewalk. Despite getting out of his car to try and help the boys, a mob formed and began beating the driver. Police were unable to restrain the crowd and, for the driver’s protection, ordered a Hasidic ambulance service that had arrived at the scene to remove him. Both boys were taken to the hospital, where one tragically died.

A rumor soon spread that the Hasidic ambulance had refused to take the boys to the hospital. Despite being false, Al Sharpton instantly seized upon it. According to sworn testimony from Efraim Lipkind, a Hasidic resident of Crown Heights, Al Sharpton egged on the crowds in person, telling them to go and “kill the Jews.”

Hasidic businesses were burned and Jews were assaulted in the ensuing riots, including Yankel Rosenbaum, who later died from his injuries. Invited to give a eulogy at the Sharpton overtly threatened Jews in his speech, stating that the Jews would “pay for their deeds,’ stating, “All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds.”

Following the funeral, Sharpton led a march through predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Crown Heights that were observing the Sabbath in an attempt to provoke further conflict.


Sharpton exploited similar antisemitic sentiments in 1995 in what became known as the “Freddy’s Fashion Mart Riot.” Following an attempt to raise the rent of a black tenant that owned a fashion store, Sharpton-led protests erupted and began targeting the building’s Jewish owner. 

Protestors chanted, “burn down the Jew store,” and a close Sharpton ally told the increasingly unruly crowd that “we are going to see that this cracker suffers.”  Sharpton himself stated that they would not allow a “white interloper” to move into the neighborhood.

After days of unrest, one protestor, Roland James Smith Jr, entered the store and fatally shot 4 people. After telling all of the black customers to leave, he then set fire to the building, killing three more, before fatally shooting himself.

Tennessee State is the only historically black college in Tennessee that is also a public university. According to the university,  Sharpton “will be teaching political science grounded in social justice.”


Updated – Spring, 2021

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