Barbour’s Buried Memories
As a follow up to yesterday’s piece on Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s selective memory of the civic activities of the Yazoo Citzen’s Councils, I’d ike to direct Stinquers to Atlantic Monthly blogger Ta Nehishi-Coates’ must-read posting on the true activities of the local chapter Haley Barbour’s favorite gathering of good ol’ boys. Coates writes:
In 1954, the NAACP determined to bring five test cases to force integration in the Mississippi public schools. Yazoo County exhibited some of the worst disparities in the state, spending $245.55 on every white child, but only $2.92 per black pupil. So the NAACP gathered fifty-three signatures of leading black citizens of Yazoo City, the county seat, on a petition calling for integration.
Their courage was met with outrage. Sixteen of the town’s most prominent men called for a public meeting, to form a White Citizens’ Council and respond to the petition. Several hundred turned out on a hot June night, including journalist Willie Morris, who watched in mute disbelief as the best men of the town outlined their response:
Those petitioners who rented houses would immediately be evicted by their landlords. White grocers would refuse to sell food to any of them. Negro grocers who had signed would no longer get any groceries from the wholesale stores. “Let’s just stomp ’em!” someone shouted from the back, but the chairman said, no, violence would be deplored; this was much the more effective method. Public opinion needed to be mobilized behind the plan right away.
And the organization’s call for non-violent racial discrimination proved quite successful:
The craftsmen could not find work. Those with jobs were fired. So were their spouses. Merchants refused to sell them groceries or supplies. The three black merchants who had signed were cut off by their wholesalers. The grocer had his account closed by the bank. One by one, they took their names off the petition. It did no good. Soon enough, 51 names were deleted from the petition. The other two had fled town before withdrawing.
The post as a whole is worth reading, and helps give the lie to Barbour’s scandalously inaccurate “recollections.”
Surrounded as we are by scandalous attempts to rewrite the history of both the Civil War and the Civil Rights struggles that followed, it is important to sound the clarion call for truth, and not allow these revisionsist lies to propagate unchallenged.