A teacher at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and antiracist activist, Miranda Jones had already weathered plenty of threats and abuse before the city announced plans to remove the Confederate monument at the beginning of the year.
After the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, Jones and a friend held a small protest at the monument, which was located at the northwest corner of the 50 West Fourth apartments, and she spoke to city council. As a result, her school received a letter stating, “Keep your Democratic hands off our statue, you piece of s***.” One commenter said on the Winston-Salem Journal website that Jones needed to “be gutted like a fish.”
When Hate Out of Winston formed to put pressure on the city to follow through on its promise to remove the statue, Jones was one of the leaders designated to speak to the media on behalf of the multiracial group.
Earlier this week, Jones received a subpoena from the United Daughters of the Confederacy commanding her to appear in Forsyth County court on March 25 to testify in its lawsuit attempting to resurrect the monument. The unusual subpoena also seeks copies of “any and all personal notes, messages, memoranda, text messages and emails, letters and any other correspondence pertaining to the Confederate monument located at the corner of Liberty and Fourth Street, Winston-Salem, NC for the period 1/1/2012 to 3/20/2019.” A separate command using almost identical language requests the same array of documents while substituting the word “official.” Jones declined to comment for this story on the advice of her lawyer.
But that’s only half of the uninvited scrutiny Jones is receiving.
On March 18, the First In Freedom Daily website posted an inflammatorily worded article about Jones that insinuates she uses her platform as a classroom teacher to promote anti-Semitic hate. The article builds on a Feb. 8 Facebook post by Jones thanking Student Minister Effrainguan Muhammad of the Nation of Islam for visiting her class. Two photos of Muhammad show the Nation of Islam website projected onto a monitor with different videos in a slide show scrolling across the screen. One of the videos is entitled, “The Honorable Louis Farrakhan Speaks: Un-Masking of Satan.”
The lead paragraph and most of the article is organized as a series of questions, although the anonymous author does not indicate they made any effort to reach out to Jones or Muhammad for comment.
“Do children in Winston-Salem need to learn about the ‘Un-Masking of Satan’?” the article opens. “Does North Forsyth High School teacher Miranda Jones believe her students require ‘profound’ and ‘firsthand knowledge’ about the ‘Satanic Jew’? The video ‘Un-Masking of Satan’ was captioned on Twitter by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as ‘Thoroughly and completely unmasking the Satanic Jew and the Synagogue of Satan.’ The presentation by Farrakhan warns viewers about a ‘system of tricks and lies’ about Jews forcing people into anal sex.”
A note appended to the article explains that it “was penned by a citizen concerned over evidence that a NC teacher is literally teaching lessons in a public NC high school that spread anti-Semitic rhetoric on taxpayers’ dime. The author’s name is withheld for reasons of privacy, and for fear of retribution from activists on the left that have proven inclinations for retaliatory political violence.”
As evidence that the Farrakhan video was viewed by Jones’ students, the anonymous author points to a “re-watch now” tab on the video. But a visit to the Nation of Islam website shows that both videos in the slideshow feature the “re-watch now” tab, whether they’ve been watched or not.
“There was absolutely no discussion about any particular faith — Jews or Christians or Muslims — no religion was depicted in any derogatory manner,” Muhammad told TCB. “I didn’t mention Jewish people at all.”
Muhammad said the students did watch a video, but it wasn’t “Un-Masking of Satan.” Rather, it was a video showing the rapper Jeezy talking about his relationship with Farrakhan.
Muhammad said Jones asked him to talk about the Nation of Islam and its history of involvement in social justice movements for Black History Month. Muhammad said he wanted to highlight the connection between Farrakhan and the hip hop community for the mostly black and brown students in the class.
Lillian Podlog, a Jewish member of Hate Out of Winston, said she completely supports Jones.
“The claims against her are patently false,” Podlog said. “That video was not shown in her classroom. There was not mention of Jews. She was teaching The Hate You Give in her classroom, which discussed Malcolm X. Students got a historical account of history in the Nation from someone who could give firsthand information. And, furthermore, there was no discussion of Jews in the lesson.”
Notwithstanding the fact that, by all accounts, there was no discussion of Jews in the class, Farrakhan’s reputation for anti-Semitism is widely acknowledged. The Anti-Defamation League has called him “quite possibly America’s most popular anti-Semite.” A recent article by the anti-bias organization states that “Farrakhan has alleged that the Jewish people were responsible for the slave trade and that they conspire to control the government, the media and Hollywood, as well as various black individuals and organizations.”
The “Un-Masking Satan” video referenced in the First In Freedom Daily article, captures a 3-hour-and-38-minute address by Farrakhan at Mosque Maryam in Chicago. The caption under the video argues that speaking truth “means condemning evil and confronting devilish Zionists, powerful people in the Jewish community who use knowledge and influence in opposition to the commands of God.” The caption goes on to say, “They are part of the Synagogue of Satan, which includes people of different races and religions, who deliberately engage in evil and promote immorality.”
Podlog said whatever her personal views on Farrakhan’s teachings, she sees attacks on the Nation of Islam as an effort to drive a wedge between activists.
“When we’re discussing history, the Nation of Islam is an important organization, which has had an impact on history and deserves discussion,” she said. “I refuse to give my personal view on the Nation, and I take issue with the fact that it is consistently used to drive a wedge between the black and Jewish community, discredit black educators and activists, and harass black Jews, specifically. I stand with Miranda 100 percent.”
Muhammad rejected the assertion that Farrakhan’s speeches are anti-Semitic.
“Minister Farrakhan is not an anti-Semite,” Muhammad said. “There is no hatred of any people of faith. He is critical of aspects of people’s behavior who use the good name of Jew to hide their errant behavior towards the black community. Minister Farrakhan has called out the errant behavior of people who claim to be Christian. He calls out Muslims who set up stores in our community and sell pork and wine. He’s not anti-Muslim.
“There is not one member of the Nation of Islam under the Minister Farrakhan’s leadership that’s ever harmed a Jewish person or vandalized a synagogue,” Muhammad continued. “As Muslims, we’re taught to respect all places of worship, whether they be a mosque, church or synagogue. If we see someone desecrate a house of worship, we are commanded to stop them.”
First In Freedom Daily could not be reached for comment for this article.
The website is owned by Mustard Seed Media, which in turn is owned by Raleigh political consultant Reilly O’Neal, according to a report in the Daily Beast. Mustard Seed Media also owns the website Big League Politics, which published several sensationalized videos of Silent Sam protesters, including UNC-Chapel Hill Assistant Professor Dwayne Dixon, whom the editor accused of assault. (The charge against Dixon was dismissed due in large part to a clerical error on the charging document.)
O’Neal’s firm, Capital Square Funding Group, has provided political consulting services for the campaigns of Corey Stewart, a Virginia candidate for US Senate who is friendly with neo-Conservatives; US House candidate Paul Nehlen, whose white nationalist messaging caused him to lose support from respectable segments of the far right in late 2017; and Roy Moore, the Alabama candidate for US Senate whose campaign was derailed by allegations of child sex abuse.
Jeff Moore, editor in chief for First In Freedom Daily, is not only a political journalist, but also a politician in his own right. He’s running for Congress, seeking to fill the vacancy left by the late Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. A March 20 article on the website highlights an endorsement received by Moore from US Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Muhammad said the timing of the First In Freedom Daily article and subpoena by the United Daughters of the Confederacy strikes him as more than a coincidence.
“I think it’s retaliatory as a result of Ms. Jones’ participation in Hate Out of Winston and them bringing additional public attention to removal of the monument,” he said. “Then to target Miranda when there are other individuals who are calling for it to be removed. Why single out this black woman?”
Since the article about Jones was published on March 18, the post on First In Freedom Daily’s Facebook page has garnered 238 comments. Predictably, many advocate violence, including two that call for shooting Jones, one that simply says “1bullet,” and still others that call for her to be doxxed and “hung up by her heels and tar and feathered.”
The hate isn’t lost on Jones.
“Prayer warriors,” she posted on her Facebook page on March 20. “I was forewarned that some have said that they want to ‘put a bullet in me.’ I don’t walk with fear, but I am wise. I will not stop my work!”