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WHITE CITIZENS COUNCILS

WHITE CITIZENS COUNCILS. White Citizens Councils were first established in Mississippi following the United States Supreme Court decision of May 17, 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, when the court reversed the 1895 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, declaring that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The formation of White Citizens Councils to oppose integration was the immediate reaction of some Southerners, and the movement spread to areas of Texas. B. E. Masters, president emeritus of Kilgore JuniorCollege, was an early supporter of the philosophy that encouraged the formation of councils in Texas, and he organized the first local council in Kilgore. Some state legislators openly favored laws that would maintain the status quo in the state's segregation practices, and Representative Joe N. Chapman of Sulphur Springs called for all lawful means to promote states' rights and prevent integration in Southern schools. In addition to the council at Kilgore, councils were formed in Palestine, Texarkana, and other communities, mainly in the eastern part of the state. In 1957 a membership of 25,000 Texans was claimed by some members, but there was no accurate count available. While the groups advocated nonviolence, they encouraged a social and economic boycott against both blacks and whites who were active in local desegregation activities. The White Citizens Councils never had widespread popularity or influence in the state. The Texas Board of Education allowed state funds for desegregated school districts, and the Texas Commission on Race Relations, sponsored by the Ford Foundation's Southern Regional Council, helped organize committees in localities where the White Citizens Councils were especially active. Early in the 1960s the councils faded into obscurity, and it is probable that many of their members joined the newly organized John Birch Society, which held strong segregationist views.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

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

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

"WHITE CITIZENS COUNCILS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vcw01), accessed April 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.