White Citizens' Council and the Council of Conservative Citizens

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White Citizens' Council and the Council of Conservative Citizens

The first White Citizens’ Council (officially known as the Citizens’ Council or, as a group, the Citizens’ Councils of America) was formed in Indianola, Mississippi, in July 1954 following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that initiated school desegregation. Branches of this white supremacist organization soon formed in other states. Most active in Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi, where Robert Patterson emerged as a leading figure, Citizens’ Councils were established throughout southern states, in most major U.S. cities, and in many northern states. Membership peaked at around 250,000 in 1957. Citizens’ Councils often became the focal points for the massive resistance to desegregation, and organizing rallies were held to protest against university integration.

Participants claimed that they were not extremists, and they distanced themselves from groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, Councils generally pursued the maintenance of racial segregation through courts and legislatures. Active in state and local elected offices, Citizens’ Council members were often perceived to be the “uptown Klan,” or a white supremacist organization populated by supposedly respectable members of society (e.g., scholars, doctors, politicians) who sought measures sustaining racial segregation through legal means. A newspaper, The Citizens’ Council, was regularly produced, containing articles that reiterated racist stereotypes and depicted African Americans as innately inferior. Contributors asserted the need for states’ rights, segregated schools, and bans on interracial marriage to maintain racial integrity. By the mid-1960s, with desegregation progressing under federal authority, Citizens’ Councils lost support and influence, and they were all but moribund by the 1970s.

The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) was founded in 1985 from the remnants of the Citizens’ Councils, and many members of the earlier groups joined, most notably Robert Patterson. Headquartered in Missouri, the CCC opposes school desegregation, interracial marriage and race mixing, affirmative action, welfare programs, and immigration. It advocates states’ rights and Confederate heritage. One consistent theme in CCC publications, Web sites, and its Citizens’ Informer newsletter is the gruesome description of interracial crime, particularly that committed by blacks against whites in the United States and elsewhere.

The CCC argues that race is a fundamental aspect of the human condition and that blacks and whites have innate differences in physical and mental abilities. These differences are supposedly irreconcilable—whites are intelligent, for example, while blacks are predisposed to violent behavior. In every instance, white supremacy is affirmed by CCC studies and affiliated scholars who use pseudo-scientific and statistical evidence to prove black inferiority. CCC leaders include Gordon Lee Baum, a former Citizens’ Council organizer, and syndicated columnist Samuel Francis. Some high-ranking Republican Party members— such as Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi (1988–), Representative Robert L. Barr of Georgia (1995–2003), and Governor Kirk Fordice of Mississippi (1992–2000) had connections to the CCC. These politicians typically expressed solidarity with the organization before bad publicity forced them to apologize. Others, such as Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi (2004–), attended CCC events but did not subsequently retract their association. In addition to its positions on race, the CCC professes patriotism; Christianity; the centrality of people of European descent to the foundation, future, and identity of the United States; opposition to international treaties and bodies such as the United Nations and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); and animosity toward homosexuality.


Bartley, Numan V. 1969. The Rise of Massive Resistance: Race and Politics in the South during the 1950’s. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

McMillen, Neil R. 1971. The Citizens’ Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954–1964. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Potok, Mark. 1999. “Sharks in the Mainstream: Racism Underlies Influential ‘Conservative’s Group.” Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report 93: 16–21. Available from http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=360.

Euan Hague