1956 March 14

Liberal Senators Denounce “Southern Manifesto”


Several liberal U.S. Senators went on record on this day to denounce the “Southern Manifesto,” issued by 100 Southern senators on March 12, 1956. The Manifesto was a declaration in which the signers pledged to do everything possible within the law to block implementation of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, on May 17, 1954, which declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional. Senator Pat McNamara (D–Michigan) denounced the Manifesto as “shameful,” while Senator Richard Neuberger (D–Oregon) urged President Dwight Eisenhower to call a White House conference on race relations.

The “Southern Manifesto” was major part of the developing Southern strategy of “massive resistance” to the Brown decision, which eventually included a number of laws to block school integration and other progress on civil rights. A 1956 Alabama law that would have required the state NAACP chapter to disclose its membership list, and thereby expose its members to harassment and retaliation, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama, on June 30, 1958. The decision created a constitutional freedom of association under the First Amendment. And on April 2, 1963, in NAACP v. Button, the Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law that was intended to restrict litigation by African-American organizations.

Read the Southern Manifesto here.

Learn more: George Lewis, Massive Resistance: The White Response to the Civil Rights Movement (2006)

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