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Remembering Sam Francis
(April 29, 1947–February 15, 2005)

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Sam T. Francis by Phil Eiger Newmann, 2021

1,122 words

This year, Counter-Currents is adding Sam Francis to our list of thinkers of the Right whose birthdays we commemorate. We are also running a symposium on his work, beginning today.

Samuel Todd Francis was born April 29, 1947, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He died February 15, 2005 in the Maryland suburbs of the imperial capital. Francis took his BA from Johns Hopkins University in 1969 and his PhD in modern history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1979.

Although he died at the age of 57, Sam Francis had two highly distinguished careers, one in the mainstream, the other on the margins. From 1977 until 1981, Sam Francis was a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. From 1981 to 1986, he was an aide to North Carolina Senator John East. In 1986, he joined the staff of The Washington Times as an editor and columnist. In 1989 and 1990, he received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Francis’ break with the mainstream began gradually, as an intellectual parting of the ways. Because of his rejection of the neoconservative takeover of the American Right, Francis was one of the early advocates of “paleoconservatism.” Francis also rejected free market and free trade orthodoxy in favor of economic nationalism and protectionism. He defended Southern identity and race realism against the Right’s rampant embrace of “color-blind” individualism. He realized that you could not found a serious country on one line from the Declaration of Independence, plus a sentence from Martin Luther King. These interests may have estranged Francis from Conservative Inc., but they made him an important influence on two intellectual currents that have only grown since his death: national populism and white identity politics.

In June of 1995, Francis was reprimanded by the Washington Times for a column criticizing the Southern Baptist apology for slavery. Then in September of that year he was fired, based at least in part on a line from his speech at the first American Renaissance conference in 1994:

The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.

The firing was, in a way, just a formality. Francis had intellectually broken with mainstream conservatism many years before. It just took them a while to catch up.

Francis’ response to being fired for thoughtcrime was exemplary: he made the system regret it. He threw himself into writing and speaking. He clearly enjoyed his greater freedom to speak the truth on politically incorrect topics, although he always remained cagey about some issues. Francis’ friends also did the right thing, by pulling together to offer the patronage necessary for him to ride out the financial setback of losing his job.

Francis was not just a writer and speaker. He was also a networker and organizer. Francis understood the metapolitical importance of fundamental ideas. Thus he played a leading role in the foundation of the Occidental Quarterly and the National Policy Institute.

I first encountered Sam Francis’ writings in the late 1980s, and as I moved away from juvenile libertarianism, he became an increasingly important influence. I particularly recall his 1993 obituary for former Texas Governor John Connally, which in a few lines crystallized the difference between economic nationalism and open-borders libertarianism so memorably that backsliding became impossible. Sometimes the smallest works have unpredictable influences. I first met Sam in 2001 at a Council of Conservative Citizens event in North Carolina, where Sam Dickson introduced me to both Sam and Jared Taylor. I remember Sam asked me how I understood the psychology of the Left. He smiled wryly when I said “Dostoevsky’s The Devils.” Jared was less amused.

Over the next few years, I saw Sam speak at a number of events, conversed with him a couple of times, and exchanged a few emails. The last time we spoke, I congratulated him on quitting smoking and losing weight, which I took as his resolution to stay with us for the long haul. I had particularly high hopes for the National Policy Institute, which was to be his platform. But a few months later, he was dead. History isn’t made just by great forces like ideas, race, and technology. It also depends on having the right people at the right place at the right time. We lost Sam far too soon.

When Sam died, he received many heartfelt tributes from people who knew him much better than I did. I urge you to seek them out:

I think Jared Taylor [8] best summed up Sam’s significance for our cause:

Samuel Todd Francis was the premier philosopher of white racial consciousness of our time. No one did more to alert whites to the crisis they face, and no one called them more eloquently to action. His intellectual sweep was of course much broader than this — he was an expert on Machiavelli, a James Burnham scholar, a learned critic of H. P. Lovecraft — but it is for his pioneering work in modern race-realist thought that he will be remembered. His work will endure, esteemed by both scholars and activists.

There is no single place on the web where you can find all of Sam Francis’ writings. But if you wish to begin exploring his life and work, I recommend two websites: American Renaissance [9] and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation [10].

If you are looking for an audio introduction to Sam Francis, I recommend Gregory Hood and Chris Roberts, “Principalities and Powers [11].”

I also urge you to explore these works by and about Sam Francis at Counter-Currents, a list that will grow with each passing year:

By Sam Francis

About or relating to Sam Francis

See also articles tagged [44] Sam Francis.