1956 September 29

Virginia Passes Five Anti-NAACP Laws


In an attempt to restrict the activities of the NAACP, Virginia passed a set of laws against barratry, champertry, and maintenance. Barratry is defined as “stirring up” litigation by encouraging people to sue when they might not have done so on their own. The laws were a blatant attempt to prevent the NAACP from pursuing civil rights cases in the state. In NAACP v. Button, decided on April 2, 1963, the Supreme Court declared the laws unconstitutional.

Other states also passed anti-NAACP laws in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, as a part of their “massive resistance” to the integration campaign. See March 11, 1956, for the infamous “Southern Manifesto” pledging to fight racial integration. In NAACP v. Alabama, on June 30, 1958, the Supreme Court struck down an Alabama law directed against the NAACP and established a right of freedom of association under the First Amendment.

Justice Brennan in NAACP v. Button: “In the context of NAACP objectives, litigation is not a technique of resolving private differences; it is a means for achieving the lawful objectives of equality of treatment by all government, federal, state and local, for the members of the Negro community in this country. It is thus a form of political expression.”

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

Read: Gilbert Jones, Freedom’s Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle Against Racism in America, 1909–1969 (2012)

Learn about the contributions of the civil rights movement to civil liberties: Harry Kalven, The Negro and the First Amendment (1965)

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