Musician, Author, Compelling Unifier, Klan Whisperer & Award-Winning Conflict Navigator
“How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” As the only Black Cub Scout marching in an otherwise all-White parade, Daryl Davis formed that simple yet powerful question after he was pelted by rocks, bottles and soda pop cans by a handful of White spectators. This was his first encounter with racism at age ten. Pursuit of an answer led this career performing musician on a surreal journey stemming from a chance encounter with a man who turned out to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Seeking to understand, not to change minds or judge, Daryl actually built bridges with leaders from a group that professed hatred for him. Some came to quit the Klan and gave Daryl their robes and hoods when they did. In the process he has unearthed truths about conflict, hate, intolerance, and communication that are valuable today. His extraordinary journey is chronicled in his first book, Klan-Destine Relationships and the documentary about his encounters, Accidental Courtesy. As a speaker, Daryl’s impact on audiences is profound – his TEDx talk has over 10 million views. Read More >
First Encounter with Racism
How Enemies Become Friends
A Life Changing Conversation
It’s simply amazing what empathy and civil conversation can accomplish. Daryl Davis should know. For nearly 40 years the noted Black musician has gained acclaim for confronting extreme bias with civility. He’s engaged, face-to-face, those who hate him because of the color of his skin: members and leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and other White Supremacist groups. Disbelief is most people’s first reaction: How could he possibly be civil to “those people?” But Daryl reached out in an effort to understand – not to change minds. Those conversations forged unlikely but genuine friendships and over time many of his new friends changed their own minds and renounced their old beliefs. Some even gave Daryl their robes, hoods, Nazi flags, and other symbols of their past. Daryl is a brilliant storyteller with jaw-dropping experiences about building bridges of understanding using practical tools we can all employ to ignite positive change in our workplace, our community, and at the family dinner table. As Daryl says, “A missed opportunity for dialogue is a missed opportunity for conflict resolution.” This presentation is positively inspiring.
Daryl Davis is a Black man who for almost 40 years has walked on the edge – with one foot dangling over the precipice – on a quest to explore racism. Along the way, Daryl has befriended White supremacists, attended Ku Klux Klan rallies, been a pallbearer at a Grand Dragon's funeral, performed hymns at an Imperial Wizard's funeral, stood in as the surrogate father of a Klanswoman bride – walking her down the aisle to be given away at her wedding to an Imperial Wizard, and spurred the dismantling of the largest Klan group in the State of Maryland. Daryl is a master storyteller whose recollections have the suspense of a true-crime podcast and keep audiences riveted to their seats in disbelief. People leave his presentations empowered with the tools to make better friends out of even their sworn enemies.
From the high influx of non-European immigration to the United States, to a Black President, to a violent and deadly White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, to the rhetoric that inspired an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, to fear of the "Browning of America," "White Genocide," and majority-minority reversal in the year 2042…Daryl Davis is the voice of knowledge, reason, and tranquility in uncertain, racially turbulent times. For nearly 40 years he has been studying and dealing directly with some of the biggest promulgators of White supremacy, their fears, and their quest for power. His expert opinion is often sought by such leading news organizations as CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, NPR, The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Newsweek, and The Atlantic. Daryl’s insights bring business leaders, law enforcement, policy makers, educators, and average citizens up to speed – helping them understand what's to be expected and what can be done.
It was music that launched Daryl Davis’ crazy connection to the Ku Klux Klan. He was complimented at a show by a White man who said he’d never heard a Black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. Daryl explained that Lewis, who was actually a friend of his, learned his style by imitating Black artists of the day. The guy didn’t believe it. He also confessed to being a member of the KKK. The ensuing conversation led to an introduction to the leader of the Maryland KKK. Daryl interviewed him for his book and became his unlikely friend. In this talk, Daryl recounts how rock’n’roll – called "the devil’s music" by its detractors at the time of its inception – broke down early racial barriers with young people in the 1950s. Daryl brings that history forward into his own story, using music as a common denominator and proving that musical and racial harmony go hand-in-hand. He has been dubbed "The Rock'n'Roll Race Reconciliator" for helping people find common ground. Daryl punctuates his captivating presentation with a thrilling musical performance, in the signature Boogie-Woogie style he honed while backing Chuck Berry and other rock'n'roll legends.
We do have a new bigotry in America…we don’t want to be around anyone disagreeing with us. We self-select our news sources and self-select our encounters. I admire this guy [Daryl Davis] because he did exactly the opposite. You can’t have a culture of encounter if you say I want to encounter interesting new people who know more than I do about nuclear physics but dear God I don’t want to encounter anyone who fundamentally has a different take on things than I do.
Daryl Davis is an inspiration in my personal and professional life. From him, I have learned that no conversation is impossible and no person, no matter how hateful, is beyond reach.
Things went very well as usual! Students were left talking about Daryl and his work for the rest of the day and later into the dorms as well…a very successful day…
Our campus LOVED having him here. Very impactful.
At all points Davis approaches his quest for information with equally impressive helpings of honesty, good humor and huge reserves of sheer nerve. Davis never ‘spins’ their rationalizations. He just lets his subjects talk, and invariably the wounded, confused and fearful psyches under the bluster are laid bare. Davis consistently approaches each of his subjects as individuals; some he comes to respect and even like. The man has earned his right to preach.
Daryl Davis is hands down one of the most incredible people I have ever met. Daryl is world renowned for his music, and if you ever see him play you will know why. Beyond his amazing musical talents, he has a natural gift for reaching others through dialogue and understanding commonalities. Daryl helped me change my life and I have seen him do the same for so many others. In today's modern society we often hear people talk about sports stars as heroes, but the real heroes are those who alter the course of lives through change. Daryl is one of those unsung heroes. Daryl's willingness and desire to understand hate, and the psychological manifestations of it have driven him into situations and scenarios that few men would ever dare to walk into, and he does so with a pure heart and unconditional love for humanity. Daryl is the kind of person we should all strive to be like.
He was fabulous! We had a great turnout too! Couldn’t have been better. Daryl exceeded our expectations!
Daryl Davis is a voice of reason in the midst of a lot of noise. By word and example he demonstrates that civil discourse across differences is not only possible, but is the only way to change hearts and minds.
Daryl was wonderful! We had a nice crowd and I received a lot of positive feedback… he really connected with those students. It was so impactful to them and it made a sincere difference in their week and their time on our campus. Thank you for working with us so Daryl could speak here!
It was awesome. He had a great impact on our community. One faculty member said that he was “the best MLK Day speaker in the 21 years that he’s been here.
Daryl was the right person at the right time for Manchester. His message, timeless, was well, WELL received and is still being talked about on campus almost a week later. We had over 500 people in attendance, the most my Office has had for a presentation like this on campus in the six years I’ve worked for Manchester…
I just wanted to let you know that Daryl Davis far exceeded my expectations! I, along with the audience, was very pleased with his presentation.
The lecture itself was captivating. Daryl is such a great story teller…he really draws you in. I wish we could have let him speak longer so that he could have shared more stories of his encounters, more video clips and some more of his amazing piano skills. There were women on either side of me who could barely contain themselves – they were ready to boogie when he tickled those ivories! Daryl received a much-deserved standing ovation at the conclusion of the night and I saw many community and campus members approach him for a handshake and photo before his departure.
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