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Southern Manifesto

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Declaration of Constitutional Principles (known informally as the Southern Manifesto) was a document written in February and March 1956, in the United States Congress, in opposition to racial integration of public places.[1] The manifesto was signed by 101 congressmen (99 Southern Democrats and two Republicans) from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.[1] The document was drafted to counter the landmark Supreme Court 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education, which determined that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. School segregation laws were some of the most enduring and best-known of the Jim Crow laws that characterized the American South and border states at the time.[2]

Senators led the opposition, with Strom Thurmond writing the initial draft and Richard Russell the final version.[3] The manifesto was signed by 19 senators and 82 representatives, including the entire Congressional delegations of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. All of the signatories were Southern Democrats except two Virginia Republicans, Joel Broyhill and Richard Poff. However, three Southern Senate Democrats refused to sign: Albert Gore Sr. and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, and Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Their opposition earned them the enmity of their colleagues for a time.

The Southern Manifesto accused the Supreme Court of "clear abuse of judicial power" and promised to use "all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation."[4] It suggested that the Tenth Amendment should limit the reach of the Supreme Court on such issues.[5]

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In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled in Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that segregation was inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. And it was about schools, but everyone knew that what it really was about was that the whole system of segregation that included voting, included public accommodations, it included every aspect of life. That whole system of segregation that the South had established was now considered unlawful, unconstitutional. And that was a day which essentially meant that Plessy versus Ferguson, handed down almost 60 years earlier than than Brown, at 60 years of Jim Crow, of blatant segregation, was declared unconstitutional. Now there was going to be no longer separate and unequal. But the real problem was how to make the South live by that decision. All the southern states began to figure out how they could resist the order, how could they overturn the order. In Georgia, it was an immediate response. By 1956, the Georgia Legislature passed several laws, including one which changed the Georgia flag and put the old confederate flag into the state flag. Now some have claimed that that was simply an act of celebrating the history. In truth, anyone can clearly see that it was enmeshed in the whole business of massive resistance against Brown versus the Board. The legislature in that session, when they passed the change in the flag, also passed laws getting ready to dismantle public education. They passed a law that would allow public schools' retirement funds to be transferred to private schools. They passed legislation to allow public schools to lease to private schools, which did not have to follow Brown, their equipment and their buildings. 1956 legislature primarily did nothing but get ready to establish the mechanisms by which to resist Brown versus the Board of Education. By 1959, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund had challenged the resistance to segregation in the in the courts and had gotten a federal court order from Judge Frank Hooper that the Atlanta schools would have to be desegregated. Immediately the governor, Governor Vandiver, he set up a commission which was to study what to do, how to resist, and how to handle this fact of a federal court order ordering a specific integration of the first schools in Georgia. Governor Vandiver appointed a lawyer and a businessman by the name of John Sibley as chair of this commission that was to study the question. The Sibley Commission prepared a report and that essentially said that we should not close the public schools of Georgia to avoid integration. And it listed a dozen ways in which to frustrate integration. So as a result, the Sibley Commission's recommendations were used to assure that desegregation would occur very slowly across Georgia. It gave Georgia state officials a lot of suggestions about how to frustrate the desegregation process, how to slow it down, how to assure that if it occurred at all it would occur very slowly with many delays. And one of those techniques was the notion of simply saying that we will admit a token number of African-American students and arguing that that was desegregation because it ended segregation. There were other techniques as well, but the Sibley Commission's report essentially was the blueprint that assured the desegregation of our schools in Georgia would occur one at a time, very slowly over a period of several years.


Key quotes

  • "The unwarranted decision of the Supreme Court in the public school cases is now bearing the fruit always produced when men substitute naked power for established law."
  • "The original Constitution does not mention education. Neither does the 14th Amendment nor any other amendment. The debates preceding the submission of the 14th Amendment clearly show that there was no intent that it should affect the system of education maintained by the States."
  • "This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding."[citation needed]

Signatories and non-signatories

In many southern States, signing was much more common than not signing, with signatories including the entire delegations from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia. Those from southern states who refused to sign are noted below.[1] Refusal to sign occurred most prominently among the Texas and Tennessee delegations; in both states, the majority of members of the US House of Representatives refused to sign.[1]

United States Senate (in state order)

Signatories Non-signatories

United States House of Representatives (in state order)

Signatories Non-signatories
North Carolina
Signatories Non-signatories
South Carolina
Signatories Non-signatories
Signatories Non-signatories

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Badger, Tony (June 1999). "Southerners Who Refused to Sign the Southern Manifesto". The Historical Journal. 42 (2): 517–534. doi:10.1017/S0018246X98008346. JSTOR 3020998.
  2. ^ Brent J. Aucoin, "The Southern Manifesto and Southern Opposition to Desegregation." Arkansas Historical Quarterly 55#2 (1996): 173-193.
  3. ^ "The Southern Manifesto". Time Magazine. March 26, 1956. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  4. ^ James T. Patterson,Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (1996), p. 398
  5. ^ Zornick, George. "Republican race to turn on "Tentherism?"" CBS News, 20 May 2011.

External links

This page was last edited on 5 September 2019, at 00:12
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