Southern Manifesto (March 11, 1956)

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Southern politicians generally opposed the Supreme Court's ruling in brown v. board of education (1954). Virginia and other states resurrected the doctrine of interposition, and Georgia threatened nullification. The most considered statement of segregationist constitutional theory was the declaration against integration made by ninety-six southern congressmen and senators, in March 1956, led by Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia. The manifesto argued: Brown represented a clear abuse of judicial power; the fourteenth amendment, which did not mention education, was not intended to affect state educational systems; plessy v. ferguson (1896) was still good law; desegregation would cause chaos and confusion in the states affected. The manifesto called upon the people of the states to "resist forced integration by any lawful means" and concluded with a pledge "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." Federal response to such abstract defiance was notably lacking, although a group of distinguished leaders of the American bar denounced attacks on the Supreme Court as "reckless in their abuse, … heedless of the value of judicial review and … dangerous in fomenting disrespect for our highest law."

Paul Murphy


Muse, Benjamin 1964 Ten Years of Prelude: The Story of Integration Since the Supreme Court's 1954 Decision. New York: Viking.

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Southern Manifesto (March 11, 1956)

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Southern Manifesto (March 11, 1956)