1954 July 11

Segregationist White Citizens’ Council Formed to Fight Integration


Two months after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, on May 17, 1954, segregationist whites founded the White Citizens Council to continue the fight to preserve racial segregation. The White Citizens’ Council generally relied on economic and political strategies to preserve segregation, and seldom used violence against civil rights activists, as did the Ku Klux Klan.

The White Citizens Council was only one part of the Southern campaign of “massive resistance” to racial integration that developed in response to the Brown decision. Other efforts included the Southern Manifesto, signed by 100 members of Congress on March 12, 1956. The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, established on March 29, 1956, hired African-Americans to secretly spy on the civil rights movement. Alabama passed a law requiring the NAACP to disclose its membership list, which would expose its members to harassment and possible loss of their jobs. The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in NAACP v. Alabama, on June 30, 1958, and created a right to freedom of association under the First Amendment. Virginia passed a series of laws regulating lawyers in an attempt to restrict social change-related legal work. The Supreme Court declared those laws unconstitutional in NAACP v. Button on April 2, 1963. Also in Virginia, Prince Edward County closed its public schools on May 1, 1959, rather than integrate them. The Supreme Court ordered the county to reopen the schools on May 25, 1964.

Read: Neil R. McMillen, The Citizens’ Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction (1994)

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

Controversy over the White Citizens Council and the “good old days”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFVQgOE8JRM

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