Southern Manifesto

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The Declaration of Constitutional Principles (known informally as the Southern Manifesto) was a document written in February and March 1956, in the 84th 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 Southern United States at the time.[2]

Massive resistance to federal rules that ordered school integration was already being practiced across the South, and was not caused by the Manifesto. Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas, a moderate, had worked behind the scenes to tone down the original harsh draft. The final version did not pledge to nullify the 'Brown' decision nor did it support extralegal resistance to desegregation. Instead, it was mostly a states' rights diatribe against the judicial branch for overstepping its role.[3]

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] Senators led the opposition, with Strom Thurmond writing the initial draft and Richard Russell the final version.[6] 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 from former Confederate states except two Virginia Republicans, Joel Broyhill and Richard Poff.

Five former Confederate state Senators and all of the former border state Senators refused to sign: Allen Frear and John J. Williams of Delaware, former Senate Democratic Caucus Leader Alben Barkley and Senate Majority Whip Earle Clements of Kentucky, James Glenn Beall and John Marshall Butler of Maryland, Stuart Symington and Thomas Hennings of Missouri, Robert Kerr and Mike Monroney of Oklahoma, Al Gore Sr. and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, William Laird and Matthew Neely of West Virginia, and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson of Texas. Along with Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn of Texas, 16 of the 21 Democrats in the Texas House delegation (including future Speaker Jim Wright), all 5 Democrats in the Oklahoma delegation (including House Majority Whip Carl Albert), 3 of the 7 Democrats in the Tennessee delegation, 3 of the 11 Democrats in the North Carolina delegation, and Dante Fascell of Florida did not sign, and none of the 26 border state House Democrats in Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri signed. Their opposition earned them the enmity of their colleagues for a time.

Key quotes[edit]

  • "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[edit]

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)[edit]

Signatories Non-signatories

United States House of Representatives (in state order)[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  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. ^ John Kyle Day, The Southern manifesto: Massive resistance and the fight to preserve segregation (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2014).
  3. ^ Brent J. Aucoin, "The Southern Manifesto and Southern Opposition to Desegregation." Arkansas Historical Quarterly 55#2 (1996): 173-193.
  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.
  6. ^ "The Southern Manifesto". Time Magazine. March 26, 1956. Retrieved August 10, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]