My descent into America's neo-Nazi movement & how I got out

At 14-years-old, Christian Picciolini went from naive teenager to white supremacist, and soon, the leader of America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead gang. How was he radicalized, and how did he ultimately get out? In this courageous talk, Christian shares a surprising and counterintuitive solution to hate in all forms.

Christian Picciolini
After leaving the white-supremacist skinhead movement that he helped build in the 1980s and 90s, Christian Picciolini co-founded Life After Hate, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people disengage from violent extremism. His memoir, White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement—and How I Got Out (Hachette), which details his involvement, and eventual disengagement, from the early American white nationalist movement, will be published on December 26, 2017. Christian lives in Chicago.


You’re 14 years old, bright, and especially loved, but you’re a lonely outsider. Enter America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead gang, where you rise to the top, overseeing brutal, drunken street brawls, recruitment by foreign terrorist dictators, and riotous white power rock music. This was Christian Picciolini experience, ultimately coming to realize his hate-filled life was built on lies and reinvented himself. He recounts his cautionary tale in order to advocate for peace, inclusion, and racial diversity.

What sparks your curiosity?

I am fascinated by the social and political dynamics that draw people towards/away from extremist movements.

What inspires awe and fascination for you?

An explorer by nature, I love to learn new things and thrive on challenging myself with “positive disruptive thinking.” I value kindness, unselfishness, sincerity, and respect for all people, and I believe that small ideas can change the world.

Hobbies / Passions / Fun Facts

I’m fairly certain that I’m addicted to soccer, sushi, and Nutella!