The Southern Manifesto

The Southern Manifesto: Massive Resistance and the Fight to Preserve Segregation

John Kyle Day
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt155jp9q
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Southern Manifesto
    Book Description:

    On March 13, 1956, ninety-nine members of the United States Congress promulgated the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, popularly known as the Southern Manifesto. Reprinted here, the Southern Manifesto formally stated opposition to the landmark United State Supreme Court decisionBrown v. Board of Education, and the emergent civil rights movement. This statement allowed the white South to preventBrown'simmediate full-scale implementation and, for nearly two decades, set the slothful timetable and glacial pace of public school desegregation. The Southern Manifesto also provided the Southern Congressional Delegation with the means to stymie federal voting rights legislation, so that the dismantling of Jim Crow could be managed largely on white southern terms.

    In the wake of theBrowndecision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional, seminal events in the early stages of the civil rights movement--like the Emmett Till lynching, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the Autherine Lucy riots at the University of Alabama brought the struggle for black freedom to national attention. Orchestrated by United States Senator Richard Brevard Russell Jr. of Georgia, the Southern Congressional Delegation in general, and the United States Senate's Southern Caucus in particular, fought vigorously and successfully to counter the initial successes of civil rights workers and maintain Jim Crow. The South's defense of white supremacy culminated with this most notorious statement of opposition to desegregation.The Southern Manifesto: Massive Resistance and the Fight to Preserve Segregationnarrates this single worst episode of racial demagoguery in modern American political history and considers the statement's impact upon both the struggle for black freedom and the larger racial dynamics of postwar America.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-047-1
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-2)
  4. Introduction: The Manifesto That Made Massive Resistance
    (pp. 3-5)

    On March 13, 1956, ninety-nine members of the Eighty-Fourth United States Congress promulgated the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, popularly known as the Southern Manifesto. This southernprofertformally stated opposition to both federally mandated public school desegregation as declared in the U.S. Supreme Court decisionBrown v. Board of Education(1954) and the emerging Civil Rights Movement that ultimately destroyed the southern caste system known as Jim Crow. Today, the Southern Manifesto is justifiably viewed as the single worst episode of racial demagoguery in the era of postwar America (1948-1973). Yet, at the time, most members of the Southern Congressional...

  5. 1. The Upheaval: Interposition and Moderation
    (pp. 6-25)

    The southern caste system of Jim Crow collapsed after World War II because of large impersonal social forces and the actions of individuals who sought to fulfill the American promise. Economic and population growth created an urban industrial base that brought the South into the modern consumer economy. These developments provided the means for African Americans to dismantle the institutions that denied them their constitutional rights. In turn, a significant number of white southerners accepted the changes to their society brought about by the initial success of the Civil Rights Movement. By the end of the first decade after World...

  6. 2. The Racial Politics of the 1956 Elections
    (pp. 26-62)

    In the wake ofBrown v. Board of Education(1954), intransigent segregation or moderation dominated southern politics at every level of government. The Declaration of Constitutional Principles, popularly known as the Southern Manifesto, fused these distinct yet similar ideologies together. More than any other single statement of its era, the Southern Manifesto articulated the political doctrine of the white South towards the Civil Rights Movement. The authors achieved their objectives because they composed a statement supported by both intransigents and moderates within the Southern Congressional Delegation. In turn, the statement momentarily persuaded most Americans that the white South’s opposition to...

  7. 3. Who Wrote the Southern Manifesto?
    (pp. 63-83)

    The Civil Rights Movement’s thrust into American partisan politics made the 1956 presidential candidates acknowledge the struggle for black freedom as a force for positive change. The Powell Amendment’s attempt to enforceBrown v. Board of Education(1954), combined with the emerging bipartisan coalition supporting civil rights legislation, threatened to destroy Jim Crow and break the South’s control over the United States Congress. If the federal government did not enforceBrownand pass civil rights legislation, however, the South retained both its seniority in the Congress and its racial caste system. To use the classic analogy of C. Vann Woodward,...

  8. 4. The Declaration of Constitutional Principles
    (pp. 84-107)

    The two Democratic United States senators foremost responsible for the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, popularly known as the Southern Manifesto, produced similar initial drafts of the statement. Democrat Richard Brevard Russell, Jr., of Georgia certainly read the draft from J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina before dictating his own statement. These two highly individualistic minds each represented the mainstream of segregationist thought, but from different perspectives. Both Russell’s and Thurmond’s initial drafts argued thatPlessy v. Ferguson(1896) was the correct interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, firmly established in both legal precedent and legislative statute. They both noted that when...

  9. 5. The Signatories
    (pp. 108-121)

    On Thursday, March 8, 1956, at 10:00 a.m., the United States Senate’s Southern Caucus met in the office of Senate President Pro Tempore Walter George of Georgia to sign the final draft of the Declaration of Constitutional Principles. The declaration’s editor-in-chief, Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia, met with reporters the next morning to announce the completion of the project and to inform them that George was scheduled to read the statement into theCongressional Recordon the following Monday morning, March 12. This schedule gave the Southern Caucus the weekend to confer with colleagues in the House of Representatives...

  10. 6. The Promulgation
    (pp. 122-147)

    On March 12, 1956, at 8:00 a.m., the Southern Congressional Delegation began their assault againstBrown v. Board of Education(1954) and the Civil Rights Movement. At this time, Democratic United States Senator Spessard Holland of Florida appeared on NBC’sTodayshow, where he explained to a nationwide audience the purpose of the forthcoming declaration. As Holland later told constituents, “After intensive study of the subject, and three moderating revisions of the original suggestion,” he and his colleagues “felt that we should take a strong and united stand for it and thus appeal for understanding outside the South for avoidance...

  11. Conclusion: The Long Stride Toward Freedom
    (pp. 148-156)

    March 12, 2006, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Southern Manifesto. Notably absent was any acclaim for the statement’s anniversary that was apparent two years before, when America recognized the same anniversary ofBrown v. Board of Education(1954). The Southern Manifesto is now but a distant memory, both for the American public and most professional historians. There were no academic forums in the leading historical journals, C-SPAN broadcasts of scholarly discussions, or roundtables for audiences to ponder the Southern Manifesto’s legacy. Conversely, the voices of the Civil Rights Movement continue to be a part of everyday...

  12. Appendix 1: The Southern Manifesto (Committee Draft)
    (pp. 157-159)
  13. Appendix 2 The Southern Manifesto (Published Version)
    (pp. 160-162)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 163-217)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 218-234)
  16. Index
    (pp. 235-241)