On this dayMar 12, 1956
19 Senators and 82 Representatives Sign Southern Manifesto Opposing Integration of Schools
By March 12, 1956, Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia convinced 101 of the 128 congressmen representing the 11 states of the old Confederacy to sign "The Southern Manifesto on Integration." In total, 19 Senators and 82 Representatives—almost one-fifth of Congress—signed their name and declared their opposition to integration. The document claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racially segregated public education unconstitutional, constituted an abuse of power in violation of federal law.
The manifesto accused the Court of jeopardizing the social justice of white people and "their habits, traditions, and way of life" and also claimed that the Brown ruling would "[destroy] 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." The time period they referenced was in fact an era characterized by racial terror and a Jim Crow legal caste system that had targeted Black Americans for violence and inequality since the end of Reconstruction.
Eight southern states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia—enacted their own versions of the Southern Manifesto. Called "interposition resolutions," these statements tried to elevate the state's legal interpretation over that of the Supreme Court. These states also used legislative acts and voter referenda to enact tuition grant statutes that authorized state governments to fund privately run schools in order to preserve racially segregated education.
Learn more about how a campaign of massive resistance to integration by white politicians and the broader white community succeeded in keeping schools segregated for years after the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.