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University of Mississippi Libraries Digital Collections: Archives and Special Collections

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The first Citizens' Council (also known as the White Citizens' Council) was formed in Indianola, Mississippi, following the United States Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which struck down segregation in public schools. Other Citizens' Council chapters were formed around the state, and soon a statewide body, the Association of Citizens' Councils of Mississippi, was founded in Winona, Mississippi. By 1956, the group claimed eighty thousand members in Mississippi. It was particularly active in the Delta region and also had a powerful Jackson chapter. A national group, the Citizens' Councils of America, was formed by 1956.

 

The Citizens' Council received its revenue from membership dues and grants from the publicly-funded Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, an agency that promoted segregation and investigated the activities of civil rights groups. The Citizens' Council officially eschewed violence as a strategy, although many Council members privately condoned the violent tactics used by the Ku Klux Klan. Council members used their connections to influential lawmakers, editors, business people, and state officials to enact pro-segregation legislation, exert economic pressure on those who supported civil rights activities, intimidate African Americans who attempted to register to vote, and create publicity for anti-integration viewpoints. The Council published a national magazine, The Citizen, and produced a weekly telecast, "Forum," on WLBT-TV in Jackson. The Council was active for more than a decade, but began to lose some of its influence by the late 1960s.

 

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