Monday, December 20, 2010

White Citizens Councils

1956 article from David Halberstam.

Look,” said Nick Roberts of the Yazoo City Citizens Council, explaining why 51 of 53 Negroes who had signed an integration petition withdrew their names, “if a man works for you, and you believe in something, and that man is working against it and undermining it, why you don’t want him working for you—of course you don’t.”

In Yazoo City, in August 1955, the Council members fired signers of the integration petition, or prevailed upon other white employers to get them fired. But the WCC continues to deny that it uses economic force: all the Council did in Yazoo City was to provide information (a full-page ad in the local weekly listing the “offenders”); spontaneous public feeling did the rest.

At the WCC’s initial meeting at Indianola, Mississippi, in the summer of 1954, it was decided to isolate and silence white dissenters. The Council organizers knew that the Negroes would need white leadership and help—ministers, editors, school-board members—and it resolved to use social ostracism to deny these to them. In Holmes County, Mississippi, a mass meeting sponsored by the WCC asked Dr. David Minter and Eugene Cox and their families to leave the county. Minter and Cox had been running a cooperative farm for Negroes under the auspices of the Presbyterian church. After the Court decision they were seen as a danger. The Cox and Minter families, however, had never been very much involved with the community, and so they stayed on—in spite of threats and the cancellation of their fire-insurance policies. Nevertheless, Negroes became afraid to come out to their farm, and the two families found themselves isolated. The neighboring minister, a conservative and one of the two men who had defended them at the mass meeting, was transferred out of his parish. (A South Carolina minister lost his church after co-authoring a resolution Which denounced economic sanctions against partisans of integration as un-Christian.)

In another Mississippi city, two doctors were told that their white patients would be denied the use of a new hospital unless they agreed not to bring Negro patients even into the segregated wing. (The Council leaders, who expect the Court eventually to abolish segregation in hospitals, believe that the best policy is to keep Negroes out altogether.) And in Clinton, Tennessee, where mob demonstrations greeted the opening of the school year last month, principal D. J. Brittain received so many threatening and abusive telephone calls that he had to change his number.