The Southern Manifesto
Massive Resistance and the Fight to Preserve Segregation
How one document marked the nadir of American racial politics and unleashed a fire that raged across the segregated South
On March 13, 1956, ninety-nine members of the United States Congress promulgated the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, popularly known as the Southern Manifesto. Reprinted here, the Southern Manifesto formally stated opposition to the landmark United State Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, and the emergent civil rights movement. This statement allowed the white South to prevent Brown's immediate full-scale implementation and, for nearly two decades, set the slothful timetable and glacial pace of public school desegregation. The Southern Manifesto also provided the Southern Congressional Delegation with the means to stymie federal voting rights legislation, so that the dismantling of Jim Crow could be managed largely on white southern terms.
In the wake of the Brown decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional, seminal events in the early stages of the civil rights movement--like the Emmett Till lynching, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the Autherine Lucy riots at the University of Alabama brought the struggle for black freedom to national attention. Orchestrated by United States Senator Richard Brevard Russell Jr. of Georgia, the Southern Congressional Delegation in general, and the United States Senate's Southern Caucus in particular, fought vigorously and successfully to counter the initial successes of civil rights workers and maintain Jim Crow. The South's defense of white supremacy culminated with this most notorious statement of opposition to desegregation. The Southern Manifesto: Massive Resistance and the Fight to Preserve Segregation narrates this single worst episode of racial demagoguery in modern American political history and considers the statement's impact upon both the struggle for black freedom and the larger racial dynamics of postwar America.
"A significant contribution to the historical literature of the civil rights era. This well-written work fills a void in our understanding of the white southern response to the civil rights movement and should inform subsequent works examining this period in America's history."- Brent J. Aucoin, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"The creation and promulgation of the Declaration of Constitutional Principles—more commonly known as the Southern Manifesto—is a key turning point in twentieth-century American political and social history, and yet it is only now that we have a book detailing it. John Kyle Day has provided us a compelling and significant look at the document that more than any other propelled the movement for massive resistance among southern whites in the civil rights era. The Southern Manifesto, Day shows in a clear and concise fashion, provided not only an underpinning for legal opposition to the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board decision, it also energized southern whites at the grassroots level to suppress civil rights advances, effectively killed racially moderate politics in the South, and substantially reshaped politics on a national level."- Michael S. Martin, author of Russell Long: A Life in Politics
"Day not only details the various forces that were essential to the Manifesto's creation, but he also looks to its impact in terms of southern and, indeed, national politics. Day shows the extent to which neither southern segregationist resistance nor the civil rights movement worked or developed in isolation from one another, but they acted and reacted in ways that had profound effects on their opponents' strategies and ideologies."- George Lewis, University of Leicester
"The Southern Manifesto has usually been mentioned in passing rather than studied in depth. John Kyle Day's splendid book guarantees that it will not be overlooked in future examinations of the mid-twentieth century South. His delineation of the different types of segregationists is penetrating and illuminating; his description of the political pressures on them from constituents is comprehensive and sensitive. Particularly intriguing is his discovery that Southern Democrats in Congress were deeply apprehensive that Brown v. Board of Education would give the Republican Party a wedge issue it could use to break up the Solid South. The Southern Manifesto was an effort to preserve the Democratic Party and their offices as much as a defense of segregation. What Day has accomplished is a classic study of how ordinary politicians struggle to deal with extraordinary, revolutionary moments in history."- John Bullion, author of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Transformation of American Politics