Title: Southern Regional Council Conference Day 1, Tape 2 [ SRC 32 ]
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Title: Southern Regional Council Conference Day 1, Tape 2 SRC 32
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SRC 32 Conference
(Day 1, Tape 2)

Brian Ward: And miraculously, you will notice that a University of Florida exhibit has

appeared, and an exhibitor. Meredith Marisbab is over there, she will

whore her wares around amongst you-I'm sure there's another turn a

phrase that I could have used, but you know exactly what I mean.

Seriously, peruse the books, do not steal; very, very bad form, very, very

bad form. I'm sure there is a generous conference discount available, am I

right? The exhibits manager says thirty percent. We can probably haggle it

up to thirty-five [percent] if we do well. Alright, I'm pleased to announce

that we have the second session about to get underway, and our very own

Jack Davis from the University of Florida is going to be chairing it, so

thank you Jack.

Jack Davis:

Thank you, and welcome to Gainesville. I hope you do get a chance to

see the Gainesville area and also the more beautiful parts of the UF

campus because it is a really nice place. It'd be a shame if we all had to

stay inside for the next few days since the weather is promising to be so

great, so try to get out to other places besides bars. [laughing] We have

two speakers, David Chappell, who teaches history at the University of

Arkansas, and he is the author of the book Inside Agitators, published by

Johns Hopkins Press in 1994, and the forthcoming book, A Story of Hope:

Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, which is due out in

December and will be published by UNC Press. Many of his articles have

appeared in the Journal of American Studies, The African American

John Kirk:

Brian Ward:

Review, World Policy Review, and others. David will actually be our

second speaker. Our first speaker this morning will be John Kirk, who

teaches US History at Royal Holloway University of London. He is the

author of Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock,

Arkansas, 1940-1970, and also the author of numerous articles and

essays on the Civil Rights Movement. His latest book on the public

leadership career of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be published by Longman

Pearson Press next year. Again, we'll start with John Kirk.

Thank you. For better or for worse, and I suspect I'm just about to find out,

I took Brian at face value when he instructed us to talk to the published

papers rather than actually deliver a written paper itself.

Which is fifty pages.

John Kirk: Which is fifty pages, yeah, and they're all posted on the internet there on

the conference website. Of course, as a former graduate student of

Brian's, I should know by now that taking Brian's advice at face value can

only lead to trouble in one way or another, but I figure he's gotten by so

far, so why turn back now. The paper that's published on the internet is on

the Arkansas Council on Human Relations in the Civil Rights Movement in

Arkansas from 1954-1964, the first decade of operations of the human

relations council that actually went on for another decade from 1964-1974,

before finally merging with the local branch of the Urban League in Little

Rock. I think conceptually the paper breaks down to three sections, which

makes it easier to manage and hopefully easier to fathom. The first

section looks at the Arkansas Council on Human Relations as it facilitates

school desegregation from 1954, handed down by the Brown v. Board

decision, up to the outbreak of the Little Rock School Crisis in 1957. The

second section looks at the crisis years in Little Rock and how the

Arkansas Council on Human Relations relates to that, and from 1957 up to

the reopening of the schools up to closed them in August

1959. The third section looks at how the Arkansas Council relates to the

desegregation of the downtown facilities in the aftermath of the Little Rock

Crisis from 1960-1964. So that's the basic rubric of the paper. By way of

some sort of background introduction, historians of the past twenty years

or so have been trying to remap the history of the Civil Rights Movement,

moving away from national biased Montgomery to Memphis, Martin Luther

King centered national narrative, and they've been looking back to

developments amongst other places at a local level. Starting with Willy

Mays Chase book in 1980 on Civilities and Civil Rights about the

sittings in Greensboro in North Carolina and looking at those in a local

context. A number of studies have looked at the local and state

dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement, including Professor Narell's

excellent work on Tuskegee, Alabama, down to my own on Little Rock,

Arkansas, for this part of the University of Florida which is

available at a reasonable discounted price in the back-Meredith's here

and she forced me to say that-which came out last year. I think that's

collectively taught us a number of things, one of the things that they've

taught us is that the Civil Rights Movement has complex origins that go

back beyond the 1950s into the 1940s and 1930s and in some places

even beyond that. Another thing I think that the local studies have done is

allow us to look at national and regional based organizations at a local

level to look at what their affiliates are doing. For example, in Little Rock,

Arkansas, I explored the relationship between local branches of the

NAACP and the national based NAACP. I found a very sort of rancorous

relationship between the two; the two in constant bickering over aims and

tactics and goals and the way that the organization should operate. The

Arkansas Council on Human Relations office [was] a very different sort of

set, I think. The Arkansas Council I think quite accurately mirrors what's

going on at the Southern Regional Council level, and hopefully the point of

the paper is not just to offer some local flavor or some quaint sort of

adjuncts to the Southern Regional Council itself, but to hopefully offer a

tool for instructive analysis of the way that Southern Regional Council

operates as a whole in terms of its ethos, in terms of tactics, in terms of

the way it operates. Really what I want to do is look at that in a

if you like at a local level as to what's happening in

Arkansas. The Arkansas Council on Human Relations was founded in the

mid 1950s as a state organization, connected to the Southern Regional

Council across the south during that period, to try and help refocus efforts,

I think, to prepare communities for what was going to happen after the

1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision, to sort of pave the way

to educate, to provide hopefully a tolerant climate for the implementation

of Brown v. Board of Education. The two leading founders or the two

leading movers of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations were Halley

Actuar, who was editor of the Arkansas Gazette, on the one hand, and on

the other Fred Caderer, who was a local multi-millionaire businessman

and philanthropist. Together between them they instigated the reformation

of the Southern Regional Council branch in Arkansas to launch the

Arkansas Council on Human Relations. Interestingly, both were former

Gl's and both cited their experience in WV\II as forming the basis for

wanting to be involved in the Arkansas Council on Human Relations. The

first thing that they had to do was find an executive director and associate

director. The Arkansas Council on Human Relations was fairly limited

operationally-its numbers never really reached beyond 300 members in

the state-but even more focused than that, the executive director and

associate director were the two main parts, and they were the two people

who really drove the organization. They decided to appoint a man called

Matt Griswald to the executive director position, a white Methodist

minister. He was a native Arkansan who had been recreations director of

the Japanese-American relocation camps in Arkansas during WWII. He

moved around the country as a Methodist minister, and at the time he was

appointed to the Arkansas Council as executive director, he had been

working for the AFIC in Texas. So he took on the job of executive director,

and Christopher Mercer, one of the first African-American graduates of

the University of Arkansas Law School, took on the job of associate

director. That mapped out that the two poles would be divvied up for the

rest of the time that the organization [existed], that always executive

director and the associate director, one would be black and one would be

white, as a self-conscious attempt to be a truly interracial organization.

There was a great deal of optimism when Brown versus Board of

Education came down in Arkansas; many people saw Arkansas as a state

that might possibly lead-as a progressive state-they might possibly lead

the rest of the South in compliance with the Brown decision. Karias

Actuar, one of the two leading figures of the Southern Regional Council,

just the day after Brown versus Board of Education was handed down, he

wrote, 'Looking at the this morning, I'm right proud of the

South. on schedule, but virtually every other Southern

politician is standing on the high ground. If I had to define the prevailing

feeling here, and I believe this is generally true all over the South except

for the really hot spots, I would say it is one of relief that the other shoe

has finally dropped. I think I can see the beginning of the time I've always

dreamed of, where you can conduct a conversation in the South without it

degenerating into an argument over where a man should sit in a streetcar.'

Of course eighteen minutes later the Montgomery bus boy court begins,

which is almost directly that you can't have talk race

relations without an argument over where, in this case, a woman sits in

the streetcar. No less, I don't think Actuar is necessarily wrong, but I think

the court sort of reveals that didn't really anticipate the sort

of resistance the school would set up. It's the beginning of the resistance

to school desegregation that would eventually develop. In that first period

of its operations, the Arkansas Council on Human Relations in trying to

smooth the for school desegration from 1954-1957, I think it can be faster

understood by looking at developments in two different places and

comparing and contrasting those. One of them is in Little Rock, the state

capital of Arkansas, which many people thought was a beacon of

Southern progressivism. The place had been very successful in luring an

Army base during WWII, and the emergence of a progressive business

elite of managers and professionals had given the hope and optimism that

Little Rock would be a gleaming new size city. They had been particularly

successful in luring all the money and luring all the investment in the years

after WWII; hand in hand with that, they had significant changes within the

context of the times, the natural segregation. In 1948, Little Rock

desegregated its public library quite quietly but quite effectively. A number

of white and colored signs had been taken down from water fountains

downtown. The medical school in Little Rock desegregated, or at least I

mentioned its first black student in 1949; the year before, the University of

Arkansas fight mill had admitted its first black student into the law school,

the first black student to attend a Southern university since the twentieth

century. So there was the hope that Arkansas would be a leading beacon,

that Little Rock as the state capital would be that progressivism city, the

kind of city that the Supreme Court thought that school desegregation

might make progress in. The other place to contrast that with is a very

small settlement called Hocksey, Arkansas, just sitting right above the

Mississippi Arkansas Delta, just north of Memphis, a very small,

boondocks, backwoods kind of town. Now if you have to bet, if you're a

betting man, then you'd put your money of course on Little Rock being a

success for school desegregation, and Hocksey being exactly the kind of

place where you wouldn't make any progress at all. In fact, exactly the

opposite happens; Hocksey becomes a model for progress in how you

successfully desegregate schools, and Little Rock becomes a place that

shows exactly how not to go about desegregating schools. Understanding

why that happens and the differences between the two is very important in

terms of understanding the work of the Arkansas Council on Human

Relations because it's intrinsically involved in both those episodes. In

Hocksey, soon after the school desegregation decision is handed down,

the superintendent of schools, Kay Vance, announces that Hocksey

intends to desegregate. He gives three reasons for this; the first reason he

gives is that it's called right in the sight of God, a quite unusual sort of

model justification leading for desegregation, which I won't tell you know,

but which David could probably tell you more about and probably has

written more about already. The second reason was that it was the law;

the Supreme Court said that we had to desegregate schools, so we're

going to have to desegregate. Third of all, perhaps more to the point, it

was cheaper. Hocksey, although it was just above the delta area, had

only a very small black population, and it was a real burden for the school

board to maintain a separate black school, such as it was. At one point

even the white school board described the black school as a bat hole, but

even then they had to maintain it and pay money and pay taxes just to

maintain a separate school. They figured if we desegregate schools, it'd

be a lot easier and a lot cheaper, so they desegregated in 1955. On the

first day of classes they integrated twenty-five black students into the high

school of 1050 people, and concerned white citizens turned up on the first

day of school, but interestingly the reporters who interviewed them, and all

seemed to get the same story, they say, well we don't want to

desegregate, it's not what we would have wanted, but what else can we

do? The Supreme Court has spoken, the school board is going to

desegregate, we have to desegregate. The classes start and by lunch

time it seems as if everything is going fine; black kids are attending school

with white kids and it's like segregation never existed. It goes on like that

for three weeks, and the school board reports there are no incidents, no

discipline problems in the school, and everything is going on as normal.

Then the turning point comes when Life magazine, which was there to

cover desegregation, prints a big photo spread of what's happening, and it

has lots of photos of black children playing with white children. It says,

look how successful desegregation can be, which is like a red flag to a bull

for the segregationists in Mississippi just across the border. They said, we

can't have a successful desegregation taking place just like that so close

to us, so the Mississippi Citizens Councils urged the

Arkansas Citizen Councils, which were kind of newly forming, to stop

integration from taking place at Hocksey. A number of loosely bound

organizations in Arkansas, Citizens

Council in Little Rock, which hadn't really gotten a great amount of

support, all sort of converged on this town of Hocksey and tried to stop

the school desegregation there. Under immense pressure the school

board actually holed up, and part of the reason that the school board holds

up is because of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations. Matt

Griswald, the executive director, writes to the school board of Hocksey

and says, you're doing the right thing, you're absolutely right, this is the

right thing to do, the stand you're taking is the most sensible one. He

sends them copies of the SRC publication and says, here's back up for

you, this is exactly what you should be doing. Equally what the Arkansas

Council on Human Relations does is to provide practical support for the

Hocksey School Board. They have a contact up there by Jonesboro

called Bill Phoenix, a lawyer who represents the school board, and the

attorneys at Hocksey are successful in getting a court ruling which gives

them an injunction against interference from the Citizens Councils. The

Citizens Council were really forced to go away with their tail between their

legs because the court said, stop interfering, the school board holds firm;

the Arkansas Council on Human Relations backs them up very quietly

while the white Citizens Councils are getting all the headlines. The

Arkansas Council is, as it does throughout its time, operating quietly in the

background to ease progress, and Hocksey remains integrated and the

Citizens Councils were just forced to back down and go away in the face

of standing firm. It was a very different story in Little Rock, a slightly

different story. Initially the superintendent of schools there, Virgil T.

Blossom, says, we'll comply with the law, and they draw up the plans to

desegregate the schools. But Blossom has more of a insidious intent;

he's not really serious about desegregating the schools, his idea is that

there will be a more controlled integration of schools. Blossom's idea is

that what we'll do in Little Rock is have a sophisticated plan for a

sophisticated city, and what we'll do is we'll minimize the impact of school

desegregation as much as we possibly can. We'll allow a token number of

black students in, so we won't look as if we're defying the law, but at the

same time that will only mean that we can use a legal loophole to have as

little desegregation as possible. The real difference between Hocksey and

Little Rock is the role that the Arkansas Council on Human Relations

plays, one important difference between the two. In Little Rock, Blossom

absolutely refuses to listen to the Arkansas Council on Human Relations

or accept any of their expertise or advice; Blossom says, I'm in charge,

I've made up this plan, and I don't want to listen to whatever you have to

say. As Matt Griswald says of Blossom, he says, he [Blossom] did not

confer the sends; he pleasantly explained and defended a

position, his. In response to any thoughtful contrary position, usually he

said something like this, you have a right to your view, but this is our plan.

Griswald went on to say that Blossom thought he found the admissions

device by which the requirements of the court could be met, and at the

same time, by which only a few Negro students would be enrolled in the

white schools. The intent of the plan was to guarantee the extended life of

the dual school system. He was the author of one of the earliest plans for

school desegregation in the South; he was at the same time guarding it

with built in submerged pictures which provided a way for schools in the

South to avoid the dreaded consequences of integration. The difference

was that in Hocksey people were prepared, as the Arkansas Council on

Human Relations tried to do, to be educated and to listen; in Little Rock

the school board wasn't prepared to listen and wasn't prepared to be

educated and they said, stay away, we're managing this on our own

terms, this is what we can do best. Of course, it doesn't turn out that way

at all, and what happens is that the Blossom plan, someone folds, in

subisolation with Blossom in its center, and by the time, in late 1957

when the Blossom plan is back to being implemented, when they're about

to send nine African-American students into Central High School, the

pressure from the White Citizen's Council has built. The White Citizen's

Council was not very powerful in Arkansas, but the concentrated focus on

one school in the city sort of gives an impetus to them. Without an

infrastructure or support paving the way for school desegregation in Little

Rock, as soon as the White Citizen's Councils put school desegregation to

pressure, Blossom begins to fold, and as Blossom begins to fold,

steps into the breach, sees the political currency being

built up by the head of steam of the White Citizen's Council, intervenes,

stops school desegregation rather than to implement it. So 1957, as you

all know, the Little Rock School Crisis explodes in Little Rock and leads to

federal troops being sent in by President Eisenhower to enforce school

desegregation. The troops stay for the year; at the end of the year

Governor Forbes closes all the schools to prevent

desegregation continuing. Finally in 1959, December 1959, the white

business community mobilizes to win positions on the school board and to

carry on with a token integration of Central High School. In August 1957,

under white business community control, the school board desegregates

Central High School, although notably with black students than the

Blossom plan had intended to in 1954, at two students admitted to Central

High and two admitted to another city school, Hall High School. The

Arkansas Council on Human Relations has problems during the Little

Rock School Crisis, of course, because if nobody wants to listen and to be

educated before the Brown decision, before this Little Rock School Crisis,

certainly nobody wants to listen during the Little Rock Crisis as both sides

polarize and black and white communities move further apart. One of the

important things that the Arkansas Council on Human Relations does do is

to actually exist and come out on the other side of the Arkansas School

Crisis, and the NAACP doesn't really manage that. Because of the

NAACP's actions, it's sort of chased out of town by the white community,

and the branch is decimated. The Oven League is chucked out of the

community chest and doesn't go on from there. The Arkansas Council on

Human Relations exists and continues and comes out on the other side.

The importance of that is that the Arkansas Council on Human Relations

is there as a moderator and voice in the community after

the school crisis, and is there to lay the blueprint for desegregation in that

1960-1964 period. What the Arkansas Council on Human Relations does

is exactly the same thing it was doing before the school crisis, it tries to

work on the white business community, it tries to get them to desegregate,

but they still won't listen. So again they face the problem, what happens if

we have people who won't listen to what we have to say, who don't want

to be educated? Ultimately the Arkansas Council on Human Relations

resolves that by calling in SNICK, and it's the Arkansas Council on Human

Relations who invites SNICK into Little Rock, because you need an

invitation to come in. [SNICK] organized black students to initiate sits-ins

in Little Rock. Through the sit-ins, through this kind of pressure of direct

action, eventually the white business community is forced to listen to the

voice of moderation, the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, and it's

forced into negotiations to follow the actual blueprint that the Arkansas

Council on Human Relations follows. So what does this story mean? I

hope that it gives a model for how the Arkansas Council on Human

Relations and perhaps the Southern Regional Council operates in that the

emphasis is on education, on informing people, and yet the problem is

what happens if people don't want to be educated and if people don't want

to be informed. The lesson for the Arkansas Council on Human Relations

is that we need to engage in direct action, and ultimately the Arkansas

Council on Human Relations was successful when SNICK was in town to

actually force the white business community to listen. Therefore the sort of

learning curve of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations is that, as

Griswald sums up in 1964, at the end of this decade, in an article in the

Arkansas Gazette: 'It would be good to have the heart converted, but if

that doesn't work, we try something else.' So through battle hardened

experience, what the Arkansas Council on Human Relations evolves to is

a sort of education, informative organization, but moves to that option

through battle hardened experience. They realized, we have to work within

the context of what's happening in the community; we have to find some

way of actually making people listen to what we have to say, and

ultimately can only do that by employing direct action. One of the

sub-questions that that sort of addresses is why

historians finally stumbled upon the Southern Regional Council, why has it

taken them so long to get there when we see the Southern Christian

Leadership Conference analysis of the NAACP, of SNICK, and all those

organizations. Partly I think it's because those direct action organizations

are the ones that capture the headlines, they're the ones out in the

forefront, and therefore they're the ones that are first seen. The Southern

Regional Council and the Arkansas Council on Human Relations as its

surrogate sort of is there throughout offering support, but it's more of a

sort of infrastructural organization. It provides the context, it creates the

environment, it provides the blueprints for what's going to happen, [and] it

creates the context of the direct action. Really historians are only now

beginning to move beyond those headlines and to see those kinds of

infrastructural headlines like the Arkansas Council on Human Relations,

like the Southern Regional Council, like, for example, the American

Friends Service Committee Fellowship of Reconciliation. There's a whole

trench of organizations that I think the investigation beyond those

headlines leads us into, which this conference is sort of part of in charting

that new territory. That seems to be the place I need to stop, so thank you.


I'm David Chappell from the University of Arkansas. I want to thank Brian,

Jenny, and Jack, and others at the University of Florida, for welcoming us

here. I just want to thank the Southern Regional Council for inspiring and

provoking our research on what's so far a very fruitful discussion. My topic

is the Fourteenth Amendment, constitutional, equality; the Fourteenth

Amendment, of course, being the only place in the constitution where the

concept of equality of persons shows up, and the role of the Southern

Regional Council in Southern moderates struggling with the efforts to

realize the promise of the Fourteenth Amendment. Historians of the Civil

Rights Movement, including me, have tended to give Southern moderates

short shrift, echoing Martin Luther King's pronouncement from his great

pulpit in the Birmingham Jail, I have been greatly disappointed with the


white moderate; "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that hte

Negroes' greatest stumbling block is not the White Citizens' Council or the

Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate, who was more devoted to order

than to justice, who paternalisticially believes that he can set the timetable

for another man's freedom, who lives by a mythical concept of time and

who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a more convenient season.

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than

absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." I would like to begin by

suggesting, however, that SRC types were justified in their special brand

of moderation without making more general claims in about moderation in

the abstract. Though King's rebuke of the white moderate was a stinging

one, it is often forgotten that he quickly added a list of exceptions, white

brothers in the South, he said, who have grasped the meaning of the

social revolution and committed themselves to it. Ralph McGill, somewhat

startlingly, was first on the list, followed by William Smith, Harry Golden,

James Dabbs, Ann Braden, and Sarah Boyle. McGill, Smith, Golden,

Dabbs, and Boyle, at least, had all been associated with the Southern

Regional Council. While Ann Braden may not relish being mentioned in

the same breath as McGill and vice versa, it is important that King was

even here holding up hope in the moderates, or at least declining to burn

his bridges to them. The SRC's moderation was not that or

absolute, it was a selective reluctance to act radically on Fourteenth

Amendment questions as opposed to Fifteenth Amendment voting rights

on which I think the accusations of overweening gradualism cannot stick.

The Southern Regional Council's moderation can best be seen, I think, as

a strategic sense of priorities, and a strategy, if you will, of covert

operations, an effort to stay below the radar screen of their enemies to

keep radical changes out of the headlines where demagogues would

exploit them. By strategic priorities I mean the SRC's moderation meant,

not reluctance per se, but the reluctance to press Fourteenth as opposed

to Fifteenth Amendment questions before the Fifteenth Amendment voting

changes had been achieved, before economic development had taken

firmer route, and before a degree of acceptance appeared among the

general white Southern population. Meanwhile, there was much they could

try, especially out of the range of the media, and much they could and did

accomplish, and much of that has historical significance that we need to

recognize. After its famous turn in favor of desegregation in 1951, the

SRC remained reluctant until the 1954 Brown decision to force Fourteenth

Amendment questions of equality upon the public schools. One of the

things I wish to suggest is that we may have an exaggerated sense of the

public schools importance-elementary and secondary schools as opposed

to higher education in other institutions. The SRC's hesitation is not

evident at all in its approach to desegregation of other arenas, at least

after 1951, for example, public transportation, which I think is particularly

important, where again, I think, the SRC cannot be accused of

temporizing. Our understanding of transportation desegregation may be

occluded by the Brown decision, which seemed to turn so much of the civil

rights struggle into a litmus test of where people stood on the schools.

There's something artificial about viewing the whole struggle through the

lens somewhat arbitrarily intruded by the Supreme Court in 1954.

Transportation from the perspective of 1945 or 1952 might have been a

strategically sounder starting place to begin a serious campaign to restore

Fourteenth Amendment rights. One of the early members of SRC,

Virginia Dabney, who figured as a sort of godfather of modern Southern

liberalism in the 1930s, certainly had greater faith in transportation than

school desegregation in the pre-Brown era. In 1943, while he was

participating in plans to launch the SRC, Dabney tried an experiment now

notorious in the annals of Southern liberalism. In a few editorials he

proposed desegregation of streetcars in Virginia cities, thinking that the

white citizenry would accept his conservative-that's his word-argument

that the law had already become a dead letter. The great wartime growth

in black and white employment, Dabney explained, repealed bus

segregation through simple overcrowding. In the new conditions, strict

adherence to the law of segregation perversely led to greater interracial

contact. To get to the black section, black passengers had to push all the

way to the back of the bus or streetcar, jostling more white passengers on

their way than they would if they just stood or sat wherever there was

room. Dabney conceded that streetcar laws were among the more

gratuitous of the humiliations of Jim Crow. But within two months Dabney

recoiled from his conservative desegregation proposal. Sensible pragmatic

gestures like his were futile, he explained to a friend, when the mass of

whites is hostile to any change, and that was the characteristic stance of

the Southern liberal and often of the genteel Southern conservative. [He

said], I favor change, but out there in bubba land there's a combustible

mixture of hatred and fear growing which just won't allow reasonable

people like me to take any obvious or significant steps; we can be liberals,

but only closet liberals. As historian John Nebaun showed, however,

Dabney invented the mass reaction to his proposal almost entirely out of

cold cloth. His editorials did not bring on a flood of angry letters from

uneducated white folk. He told a friend that in fact he got no reaction at all

from those types of white Southerners, and Nebaun observed that for

decades Dabney and other Southern liberals, "brandished this

boogeyman, the cruelly Negro-phobic poor white, to drive away impetuous

reformers." In the end Nebaun says, this terrifying class of white

Southerners also paralyzed Southern liberalism. The opposition to

Dabney's proposal, if his own papers are any guide, actually came from

upperclass educated leaders like himself. Even at that, the letters he

published in his newspaper from white readers were overwhelmingly in

favor of his proposal of roughly three to one, but newspaper editors and

political leaders, including Governor Arden, elsewhere in the

state, cold-shouldered Dabney on this question and Dabney concluded

that he could not fight those leaders. So of course he joined them by

opposing further experimentation along even the conservative lines that

he had tentatively sketched out. Although Dabney soon joined the SRC,

he fought efforts within the organization to question Jim Crow, then after

he lost that fight in 1951, he quit the SRC and became one of the most

effective segregationists in the South. My interest in bringing up the story

is not to bring scorn on Dabney as a spineless wishy-washy

paternalist-dishwater interpretation that Doug Smith so ably

described-rather I wish to call attention to Dabney's discovery about

white Southern society, or Nebaun's discovery of Dabney's discovery,

which is: the masses of urban Virginia apparently would not react violently

to desegregation of public desegregation. A lead reformers fear of the

masses on that issue was ill-founded, and this is important because even

before the great turning point in 1951, most of the SRC leaders were

moving in the opposite way from Dabney on the question of segregation.

At least, I don't think we can say absolutely what the numbers are, but it

seems to me they are moving that way more decisively on every question

except schools than they are moving on the schools, and I think the school

question is lagging. There is something special about school

desegregation. Its emergence as the defining issue in civil rights was to

some degree a fluke, perhaps a tragic one, of the haphazard ad-hoc path

of legal development. The Supreme Court did finally bring on for a few

years following May 1954, the surge of mass anger and hysteria that

Dabney had feared, or to be more precise, had raised a human cry

among opportunistic politicians and rabble-rousers who, for a remarkably

long run, succeeded spectacularly in mobilizing angry white voters. But

before Brown, the NAACP defense fund had been following other

avenues, and until 1946, the most promising of those was probably public

transportation. The original judicial loophole justifying segregation under

the Fourteenth Amendment, after all, came in the transportation case, the

Plessy case. The most logical place to attack the Plessy doctrine was in

other transportation cases. As historian Mark Tushnet explains, however,

the LDF's campaign against transportation segregation petered out after

the apparent victory in 1946, Morgan v. Virginia. In the Morgan case,

1946, the court decided seven to one that a state could not impose

segregation on an interstate bus because doing so unreasonably

interfered with interstate commerce. The lone dissenter from the case,

Harold Burton, normally a supporter of civil rights, pointed out however

that the court was evading the central question, which was whether state

imposed segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment. In the Morgan

majority's controlling precedent, an 1878 case, Hall v. Dequer, the court

had used the exact same logic of interstate commerce to strike down an

anti-segregation law. Thurgood Marshall feared, in 1946, that

resuscitation of that precedent could be turned around to invalidate the

existing laws at that point of eighteen northern states that banned

segregation on interstate carriers that crossed over their borders.

Considering these and other quirks of interstate commerce, Thurgood

Marshall said at that point that he was unwilling to test transportation

further. The Legal Defense Fund needed to push the court to find

segregation in conflict somewhere with the Fourteenth Amendment's

equal protection clause in the event, of course, it ended up using schools,

but there were signs in the late 1940s that going that way, down what

appeared the most promising litigated avenue, was heading away from

crucial bases of political support. The year after the Morgan decision,

President Harry Truman's special commission on civil rights showed

weakness and division on only one question in its famous report of 1947

to secure these rights. After forthrightly recommending a permanent

FEPC, an anti-lynching law, and "elimination of segregation from all

aspects of American life," the committee divided on the means to eliminate

segregation from the public schools. A minority of the commission went on

record that it did not think schools should be desegregated immediately or

forcefully by the federal government. The commission minority thought

that school desegregation might be a desirable end, but that it should be

achieved voluntarily, gradually, and by local initiative with due regard to

the peculiarities of local conditions. There was no such hedging in the

report on other issues, some of them quite radical. In fact, I wonder

whether this show of division over the means to school desegregation did

as much to provoke the reaction from Strom Thurmand's Dixiecrats as

the report's radicalism. Much as the commission's radicalism allowed

Southern politicians to accuse Truman of betrayal of the loyal

South, the division over federal force on schools made the commission

and the whole civil rights lobby, Republican as well as Democrat, look

vulnerable. When Brown finally came in 1954, the Southern Regional

Council stuck its neck out by pushing for compliance with the inevitable,

now that the desegregation was suddenly the law of the land. How did that

work out? The first major test of public school desegregation in real life, in

Little Rock in 1957, provides an instructive juxtaposition. The very year

before the school crisis that put that city into the headlines, Little Rock's

public transportation system was perfectly desegregated without fanfare or

incident, also the suburban system immediately to the north of Little Rock.

Even in Montgomery that same year, 1956, opposition to reducing

discrimination on the buses seemed to come more from the bus company

and city officials than from the general lay population, and that is

especially significant since the bus riding, part of the white population, was

skewed toward that allegedly more combustible end of the income

distribution. When, after a year of struggle the bus system finally was

desegregated in Montgomery, it happened with no significant violence.

Also in 1956, Tallahassee desegregated its bus system much more

quickly than Montgomery. Maybe the stiff resistance and international

publicity that the Montgomery boycott got was the exception, not the rule.

At any rate, Mills Thornton persuasively argued that it was only the

intranscedents of a few local officials that made a local dispute in

Montgomery literally into a federal case. Desegregation of transportation

might well have proceeded had it not been for all that fanfare. In 1956, the

segregationist editor Tom Waring of the Charleston News and Currier

wrote to Virginia Dabney that even his own paper, which he rightly called

diehard, had been "advocating some, perhaps most, of the SRC's agenda

when the Supreme Court came along and made it all but impossible to

pursue that line." It was desegregation of schools, or rather what was

perceived as their sudden forced desegregation by a distant alien

authority that provoked and seemed to justify violence and mass

resistance. Some of the local dynamics are important here as well. Many

white parents in Little Rock perceived the desegregation of Central High

as an imposition by upper crust do-gooders like Virgil Blossom, who's

own children would continue to attend segregated schools. Massive

resistance was not just about home rule as it was about who should rule

and how. Jennifer Hothschild, among others, makes it clear that the

same view that liberal activists and federal judges whisked their own

children off to private or suburban schools where there was no black

presence, played a key role in many, if not most other cases of resistance

to school desegregation in the North as well as the South. The year after

Little Rock, the SRC was delivering a pamphlet, South Carolinians Speak:

A Moderate Approach to Race Relations; this is in 1958. Though the

Southern Regional Council had committed itself to school desegregation,

this pamphlet suggested that local affiliates, the State Councils on Human

Relations, still depended on members who agreed with the Southern

Regional Council on every point but schools. I would echo and amplify

what John Kirk said that we really won't get to th marrow of the story of

Southern liberalism and moderation in these years until we look at that

relationship of the local councils on human relations. The example of what

people have done on the black side of the struggle, if you will, looking at

the local NAACP branches and finding how often ...

[end side A 1]


... in South Carolina, it was a compendium of statements by prominent

community leaders all identifying themselves as moderates. Most of them

advocated an end to segregation in transportation. One of these

moderates stated, there is no good reason why segregation on public

conveyances should be continued. I think it was on the way out when the

school issue arose, and in a comparatively short time it would have

disappeared. But all the contributors to this pamphlet who expressed

themselves with any clarity on the issue went down the line opposing the

imposition of public school desegregation. Many of them said it was a

desirable goal, but they didn't want to achieve it by forced impost from

outside. It is of some interest that the moderate position here echoed the

segregationist position of Tom Waring quoted earlier. It was indeed

common for other segregationist leaders, including James Kilpatrick and

the Reverend James Dees, to make such concessions. Short of federal

public school desegregation, they could acknowledge and accept and

even embrace desegregation of medical schools and professional schools,

seminaries, divinity schools, desegregation of professional associations

and so on. My point in making that connection is not that the SRC's local

rank and file were really closet reactionaries with secret affinities to people

like Tom Waring and James Kilpatrick, but rather that the middle

ground, the white Southerners who favored segregation, wanted to hang

onto it but didn't want to fight over it or make careers over it, might well

have expanded if locally initiated desegregation of transportation rather

than court-ordered school desegregation had been the defining issue. Had

the Southern Regional Council proceeded without Brown, then history may

have taken a very different path; resistance may not have been as

explosive and surprising as it was. Moderates could at least have called

the bluff of people like Kilpatrick and Dees and Waring perhaps in the

hope that a little desegregation would ward off demands for systematic

desegregation, which I would argue is all that happened in so many of the

school desegregation cases anyway. People like Dees and Waring could

justify acquiescence in token gradual desegregation. Had the court not

drawn the line with schools, moderates could have driven the absolute

diehard sets to the margins instead of driving themselves to the margins,

which is what they did. Not only white liberal opinion but black opinion

seems deeply divided on the question of desegregation, and this seems to

me a conspicuous fact that historians have not begun to face up to. I'm not

saying that I've done more than begin to face up to this, but in 1955, a

gallop poll found out that only fifty-three percent of black Southerners

supported the Brown decision. I was very struck by Patricia Stevens,

whose reading of the letter from her father saying that eighty-five percent

of the black community were opposed. Who knows, maybe that's

exaggerated, but it's an interesting statement in itself. Daisy Bates, the

leader of the Little Rock Nine said in a 1976 interview that she had never

felt much confidence about her relationship with the black population of

Little Rock, that she was walking on egg shells. Many black folk there

considered her an outsider, she said, who was stirring up trouble and

causing people to lose their jobs. Not only her white friends, but also her

black friends stopped visiting her house, and not simply out of fear. If one

of the Little Rock Nine had gotten killed in those days, she said, the whites

would not have needed to persecute me anymore; the black community

would have chased me out of town, I knew that. School desegregation,

especially the token variety, which was often the only kind available at

least for the first fourteen years or so after the Brown decision was, after

all, very often not a strategy for the black masses, rather for the

foreseeable future it appeared that it would benefit at best a small number

of extraordinary children, or children with extraordinary parents. The black

newspapers of the period have a rich and diverse range of opinion in their

editorial, op-ed, and letters columns. George Skylar [and] Zora Neale

Hurston were not isolated freaks, but had significant numbers of black

readers and letter writers who supported their positions, and their

positions were quite different; Skylar opposing the means to

desegregation, and ultimately assimilation, which he favored, and Hurston

opposing the end of desegregation. Those are just two [opinions]. There is

a whole range, a whole variety, of different positions that is not for public

school desegregation or against. Why not continue such proposals as the

equalization plans in South Carolina, Mississippi, and elsewhere? The fact

that segregationists were pushing those plans as a way to avoid or evade

desegregation might, in a sense, make those plans more politically viable,

more likely to succeed in the real world, and accomplish more in the long

run if they were admittedly less palatable to moral purists. Historians who

see the struggle as literally black and white I think are a long way from

understanding the diversity of opinion within the Southern black population

on such questions as differences of tactics, but also I think differences of

ultimate ends and goals. The main reason, though, that I wish to

reexamine the Southern Regional Councils initial hesitation to lead the

South into federally forced school desegregation, and to put that court

before a lot of other ready horses, is that a major trend of recent years,

especially the 1990s, has been the resegregation of public schools, the

ongoing of what was achieved at such costs in the 1960s and 1970s.

Resegregation, whatever or whomever we choose to blame it on,

suggests that the schools were not in the long run the great

accomplishment of the Civil Rights Movement. This is not to question the

value or the desirability of desegregation, just for the record I supported

desegregation, including public school desegregation, participated in it as

a third grader. I supported it and continue to support it both as a practical

means to greater equality and as a civic and cultural end in itself, but it

has not been the most durable initiative and I think it's unraveling, or at

least its significant unraveling in many parts of the country should, in

addition to inspiring new strategies for achieving equality now, should lead

us to take another look at the relative values and priorities that we tend to

take for granted in our efforts to learn from the past. Thank you very much.


Jack Davis:

I read a longer version of David's paper and I was reminded that

apparently I commented on one of your paper's before at another

conference, and David's ideas I always find very stimulating and

interesting and also fascinating. Also sometimes I don't understand them,

so I apologize ahead of time as I present my comments if I'm a little off

base here. He asks us to think in terms of the counter-factual, which I

think is useful in analytical methodology. In other words, if civil rights

organizations and federal policy makers had obtained a better

understanding of the so-called white masses and the pluralistic views of

the so-called black community and taken the SRC's moderate position on

school desegregation, something about the course of history would have

been different. However, I'm not clear from reading his paper on what

would have been different and perhaps he will offer some clarity. Is he

suggesting that if desegregation forces had followed the front to eliminate

discrimination in public facilities such as transportation, successful and

enduring desegregation of schools would have followed without or with

just limited volatility? Would the SRC's "more general strategy" in public

accommodation of desegregation have worked for schools? It is clear from

the paper and presentation, I think, that David is himself trying to sort out

the puzzle of school desegregation and resegregation, yet it seems at this

point in his venture he wants to have his beer but drink somebody else's,

as he has been known to do. [laughing] I confess that I, as a

co-conspirator, it seems from reading his paper-it was not in the talk

because of the restriction of time-he wants integrative schools and yet he

wants to respect the sanctity of local control. He questions though whether

this is possible. Of course, after the expenditure of thousands of dollars

and countless calories of physical and intellectual energy to address the

continuing problem of race in schools, the experts have shown us one

thing, and that's that noone has a solution. Now we've been talking a lot

this morning about Southern liberals, but it seems to me that before

historians can begin evaluating alternative strategies of the Civil Rights

Movement, they and racial liberals, whoever and whatever they may be,

should first fully understand what segregation meant to white

segregationists. [They should get] to know the reason rather than just the

fact. Why are schools today, next to churches, the most segregated public

and semi-public venues in the country? What exactly was it that whites

feared in desegregation? Too many activists and policy makers failed to

listen, for instance, when Walker Percy, during the heady days of Brown

and Little Rock and Ole Miss, clarified the private nature of public

schools? When the justice department compelled the enrollment of James

Meredith at the University of Mississippi in 1962, Percy wrote, "It was if

the black man had been quartered in the living room of Southern whites.

The familial boundary of this society came to coincide with the actual

public space which it inhabited." It seemed odd and contradictory, if not

traitorous, to many white liberals when in early days of resegregation in

the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, it seemed contradictory when throngs

of black parents expressed their opposition to integration at the expense

of neighborhood schools and local control. As David pointed out, plenty of

blacks took this very position in the early days of the civil rights struggle,

but no one on the side of civil rights seemed to listen because, I think in

part, because conservative whites were making the very same arguments.

Again, we cannot know what social reformers were up against until we get

at the heart of white racial attitudes, the basis of which I have argued

elsewhere, was more complex than social fears and economic

competition; that racial amalgamation meant not just physical

amalgamation to white segregationists. Only after we scholars give

credence to the reality of white segregationists, rabid races, semi-civil

conservatives, and white supporters all, and refrain from imposing our own

value laden reality on our subjects, can we answer question about failed

strategies of the Civil Rights Movement. I mean, how many of us scholars

in here have actually interviewed a citizens council member, a Klansman,

a race murderer? There's not very many, only two or three of us. If we too

secondguess the motives, beliefs, ideals, and values of Southern whites-if

we treat them as objects rather than subjects-our own strategies as

scholars will fail.

John Kirk is part of the British invasion in the study of civil rights, and he

brings what I call the across the pond perspective of U.S. History. Kirk

encourages us to consider civil rights activity beyond traditional civil rights

organizations such as SNICK, SELC, and NAACP, and

other historians such as Linda Reed and John Ederton and Pat Suldon

have given us a glimpse into the civil rights contributions of public interest

organizations whose agendas were not necessarily civil rights specific. In

many such organizations old and new, [they] continue to carry the torch or

picked up the church of civil rights after some of the traditional civil rights

organizations lost their luster or just sort of faded into obscurity. The

non-traditional organizations were national, regional, and they were

community based, and Kirk takes us down to the all important state and

local level to introduce us to the historical impact of the Arkansas Council

on Human Relations. He consequently reminds of just how decentralized

the Civil Rights Movement actually was. While it did reveal some

centralized aspects such as campaigns like the lunch counter sit-ins and

the freedom rides that mushroomed into region wide campaigns, and of

course the reinforcements that were sent in from the national

headquarters or the regional headquarters, the real work of change was

done in separate, individualized, local campaigns. The initiatives in Little

Rock were part of a larger collective that shared a common spirit and

goals, but depended on strategies that were tailor made at the local level

to meet specific challenges. As some of us have shown, even local

NAACP branches acted independently of national headquarters in New

York; the two groups weren't even connected at times. Local branches

adopted agendas that clashed with national policy, frustrating the leaders

of the national organization as would a wayward child a parent or a

soldier his superiors. I want to wrap up my comments by

beginning with a question for John that perhaps we can use as a

springboard into questions from the floor. You opened your paper by

saying that the ACHR "grew out of the reorganization of the Board of

Arkansas Division of the Southern Regional Council." I wonder if you can

tell us more about those origins and why, for instance, did Harry

Ashmore choose the SRC? What was the appeal about the SRC?

The SRC branch itself reflects the Council on International Cooperation,

which had been in Little Rock before that, and it was part of a long

succession, I think, of liberal moderate white entities in the community. I

John Kirk:

M. Lassitter:

think one of things that happened in the mid 1950s is that organization,

what we would call it today, regrounds itself as the Council on Human

Relations. Harry Ashmore, as a returning GI, goes to Little Rock just

about the time, or just a few years before, that regrounding takes places. I

think there's a new impetus, a new direction, that the Southern Regional

Council has taken by that regrounding exercise which attracts those

people who think, this is something new, this is a new context we can

operate within.

This is a question for David. My name is Matt Lassitter from the University

of Mississippi. This is for David, but maybe you can speak to this to. I can't

decide whether I'm troubled or a little confused about the implications of

taking schools out of the civil rights narrative because a lot of historians

are starting to use a consumer model to understand civil rights, and Liz

Cohen has a new book on New Jersey in which she does this. Back then

schools had a much more fundamental challenge to raise

class privilege like with street cars, for example, in other consumers'

faces. Like Jack said, schools are semi-private; understand that a lot of

white middle class and suburban lines, and they are increasingly private

residents. If you think about it this way, you can argue that the real

successes of the Civil Rights Movements are in consumer spaces,

shopping malls are probably the most integrative places in the country

today, whereas neighborhoods and schools are not. If you think about this

in terms of moderates and massive resistance, moderates do get control

of the process in the South in every major city by the late 1950s and early

1960s. Increasingly what they do is they stop using a language of

segregation and they start using a language of neighborhoods, and a

class privilege as well as racial privilege. I wondered if you wanted to

speak a little more to the implications of what does this mean? They're

really moving toward a northern model, I think, which is a consumer

model based on this idea that there's a distinction between public spaces

and neighborhoods and schools. What does it mean in a larger context to

try to rethink the role of schools in civil rights?

D. Chappell:

There's a lot there. The consumer stuff, I think that's a very, very

promising development in historiography. I hadn't thought of that

connection; it's an astute and provocative one to make. It bothers me a

little. I think there's a lot going on in the 1950s. Generally what I see as the

Civil Rights Movement, what makes it distinctive, what makes it

interesting, is that it's a counterpoint to those consumer trends. These are

human beings who have lives and jobs and they are getting and spending

like the rest of America, and they often partake of that

consumerism-everybody does. The reason we're interested in them, the

reason they stand out from my point of view, is that they resist so much of

that consumerist ideology or solution to the old problems of freedom and

democracy. That's obviously a personal answer. The private or

semi-private nature, Jane brought up I thought that the

distinction that she made was not between public and private there, but

she had sort of a three-steer model of human society, and she did not say

that schools are private. Her basis for thinking that school desegregation

was the wrong move to make in those essays was that there's this fear

somewhere between the private and the public. She wasn't saying that it's

as private as families are-it was a distinct sphere from us-but neither was

it an entirely private realm. On liberal egalitarian grounds, she argued that

we still need to have spheres like public schools, neighborhood schools,

that can be insulated from the claims of the state, the claims that we

rightly make on strictly public space like voting booths and jury boxes and

streetcars and public accommodations like hotels and so on; those would

be public. I'm not saying that I want to narrate all those implications, and

of course one of the things Jane didn't mention that was that Orinth

quickly recanted all of that for tactical reasons. She wanted to push this

repeal of massessination laws, and that wasn't what the civil rights

leaders most wanted to push or even envisioned as a goal. It's sort of that

question of the semi-private quality of schools, [which is] sort of a moral

and philosophical question, and that's the way our ends approached it. My

approach, I think, is somewhat different. I mean Jack was right to say that

some of my argument wants to favor desegregation and yet recognize I

think what he referred to as the sanctity of local control. That's not the way

that it came to me. I think what I want to respect is other people who

respect the sanctity of local control, black and white, liberal and

conservative, in those years and in other periods-in the 1950s but also in

the 1980s and 1990s. In the immediate context of the 1950s, it's not

respecting people for the moral sake of respecting them, but respecting

them because you're fighting them in a battle; there's a war, a sort of

social-cultural-political war going on for desegregation and other strategies

to achieve greater equality. What you want to do, I think, and what the

Civil Rights Movement often did at the grass roots level, the local level,

was go after the weak points. [They'd] pick the pressure points where

segregationists opinion was most vulnerable to division, most likely to

come apart. I think strategic choices that the Supreme Court made, or if

you will, imposed, or sort of fobbed off on the Grass Roots Movement in

1954, aren't necessarily the ones that the shrewdest field commanders in

that battle might have chosen. Whatever their ultimate goals, and I think it

was more respecting people's notions of local control, it's more a matter of

respecting the enemy's power and ability to unify and develop solidarity on

the school issue, which they couldn't do. The diehard segments] were

more isolated, more marginalized, or more vulnerable to marginalization

on other issues. It's a strategic analysis that I approach this through. I

think I learned something about the philosophical issues, but that's the

way I get at it. Les you had your hand up earlier.

I'm Leslie Dunbar of the University of [laughing] I have an

organizational privilege, but before I get to that. I got to the SRC a few

months after the South Carolina I would like to say that at

L. Dunbar:

least one of the organizers of that path with became one of

the more outspoken, forceful leaders of progressivism in the South, and as

a matter of fact, Law Street Church in South Carolina pretty much was

thrown in that path. What I really wanted to say was Barry and I and Paul

Gaston's warning about getting lost in words, and I don't want to do that,

the word is moderation. That is one of the most hateful words in my own

personal life. To me, More crucially, that decision for

the Southern Regional Council is far more incredibly

important than the NAACP. I cannot really think of any important issue

between the I cannot think really of any important issue on

which the Southern Regional Council took a position different from that of

I'm Connie Currie. I just wanted to make a comment on the issue about

the schools. I think it would be important that if you leave the issue of the

black parents sending their children to white schools out of the

of the movement, because certainly after 1964, the women

that I have interviewed and the father's who made that choice to send their

children to the white schools, it was part of the Civil Rights Movement. If

you interview people, you know they say, yeah, we know that-this was in

Mississippi-we knew that if we were caught educated we

would be killed. So it was not just a schools issue, it was a flowing part of

the movement. It's very interesting because I was talking to some people

at the NAACP Regional Defense Fund, and at one of their last meetings

C. Currie:

Doug Smith:

John Kirk:

they were considering trying to get the right to a public education into the

Constitution. A lot of people don't realize that it's not a Constitutional right

to be able to go to a public school and to get a public education in this

country. Now what happened at that meeting a few weeks ago,

amendment on public education.

I'm Doug Smith. I have two questions, one for each of you. John, I was

fascinated by your comment that the ACHR actually invited SNICK into

Little Rock. I just wondered if there are examples of that happening

elsewhere. If you could talk about that for just a second. Then David, my

question for you is just sort of following up with what was just happening

here. I think it's certainly understandable to look at the amount of

resegregation of schools and say, well what went wrong, and maybe

different choices should have been made, but I'm a little bit uncomfortable

with the notion that it was the Supreme Court that sort of imposed its

agenda on the South when, in fact, the NAACP for twenty years had been

building up to ground, and people like Oliver Hill in the 1930s are running

all over the state of Virginia trying to get people riled, students. Oliver Hill

says that World War II was not the best thing that happened but the worst

thing that happened because it stopped the momentum that he and others

had actually made in filing these equalization suits. I wonder if you might

comment on that.

On the point of the Arkansas Council of Human Relations inviting SNICK

in, I think it is interesting in the light that I was talking about different types

D. Chappell:

of organizations in the Civil Rights Movement. Those kind of Big Five

organizations, if you like, felt in competition with one another. What's

interesting is that those organizations don't seem to feel in competition

with the Southern Regional Council or the Arkansas Council on Human

Relations. There's a deception that they're doing two different things at

two different sorts of rivals, and therefore the Arkansas Council on Human

Relations doesn't really think it's a threat to invite SNICK in to operate

within those organizations, whereas SNICK and the NAACP do come to

blows-not literally, but metaphorically-because of their operations. I think

there's a twin track structure; if different organizations work with one

another, it is more broadly effective too.

The key word in those suits in Virginia is equalization; those are not

desegregation suits, they're equalization suits. That, of course, is a

strategy that is embraced by Jimmy Burns and other diehard

segregationists. Maybe, and I'm just saying, we ought to consider the

ultimate fate, the tokenistic quality that so much of school desegregation in

fact had for so long despite the calories that were expended in achieving

it, there's a lot that can be done and a lot that may be really radical. I think

one of the things we do, to throw this back to you guys, we see the school

issue as so radical because that's what finally got the segregationists to

come together and make a stand. That doesn't necessarily mean that as a

long term strategy it leads to the most radical achievement. I'm just saying

let's pick that apart and look at it. I'm not saying that I've got a new answer

M. Lassitter:

D. Chappell:

and a new interpretation, I think actually Connie Currie's point that there is

a kind of continuum for all of these issues certainly by the mid 1960s, I

think that's indisputable. But I also think that if you look in the opinion and

letters columns of the black newspapers, people break the issues down;

two people may agree on one issue and disagree sharply on another.

Resegregation is happening to all the local people because of

neighborhood schools, because of the supervision of

school districts like Charlotte and

Okay, but I think that is just begging the question of why did local control

become such a value for many black parents, as well as white? Why did

judicial control sort of-I think the turning point is this 1974 in the Miliken

decision-why did the Supreme Court justices just sort of throw up their

hands. They're cowards, they're closet reactionaries-we can say all of

these things about them, or that the climate of opinion is changing, or it's

just the irreducible racism of American society. I think there's something to

all of those theories, but I also think that the Supreme Court was saying,

we can only force, to use term, social engineering so far;

not as a moral choice of the ideal world we want to create, but the

practical choice of what we can actually achieve in our limited lifetimes in

the real world. If I could briefly respond to Les' point, and maybe I didn't

make myself clear, but my point was to suggest that the people working in

the SRC even before the advent of your leadership, the term moderation

is really not a good one. What they were doing, if you look at it carefully

and break down the issues, was often quite radical, quite historically

significant, and we shouldn't sort of dismiss it as moderation.

Steve Suits:

I'm Steve Suits from When the last gentlemen's

question of schools, it seems to me that an important line of inquiry

is you always kind of measure whether equalization would

have gotten anywhere, whether Jimmy Burns would have taken it up at

all had it not been an effort. Equalization was an effort since

Reconstruction ; that historical continuum. Folks were

ready to assume that equalization was not going to come about

That's a separate point, but I think you have to measure,

how far did it get along in 130 years to measure or not whether it would be

an option for strategy in of good schools. The second point

about this of the ground, I was intrigued by your difficulty in

refuting the polling of the blacks after Brown and the split. It reminds me a

little of the folks who slight Eddie Williams the day

in studies. In over one year has shown that most

African-American parents support vouchers at a higher rate than do white

parents. Those who believe in vouchers have tried to make good use of

that in an appropriate way, but if you look at both those polls in the point of

view of a parent, you say, what does my child need? My child needs a

better education? Either that or he needs better choices. I'm not

supporting a voucher, but I'm supporting a choice for a better school. In

Jack Davis:

Steve Suits:

D. Chappell:

1954, what parent of a black child would say, is that decision, in my child's

life, get them a better education? Every child that went to a white school

knew what kind of hell they'd have to deal with, and Eddie Bates and

others had to make sure that those children were taken care of. To

assume that a parent in a poll makes a global choice about what is good

rather than an understanding that that poll is raising to them a question

about their own children I think's a consideration. I'm interested in the

terms by which these interpretations come about; as analytic frameworks

whether they are grounded and respective of people who are living those

lives. Harry Ashmore and his day after editorial-now we all have a

memory that can serve us better than the past sometimes right-more than

once in the Poppem Seminar Harry Ashmore remembered editorial. He

clearly, from his memory, wasn't trying to project what was, he was trying

to project what he hoped would encourage the South to do and who

necessarily thought by writing that editorial he was not trying to persuade

the South, but instead reflecting. It's something I think you're assuming

that Harry as an editorial writer was liberally always honest-he wasn't. He

would like to have had the South respond that way; he was trying to

encourage the South to respond that way.

We're out of time and I think we need to have David respond.

As I would conclude, I'd like you to consider that point.

Actually, I don't want to say how wrong you are. On the poll, I lean toward

your interpretation exactly; the only thing that confuses me is how you

Jack Davis:

Brian Ward:

seem to think we disagree on that. I think we don't know what the deepest

inner motives of the people who answered the polls are, but I think what

you suggest is very plausible. I would sort of go with that as the most likely

general explanation to the extent that there is a general explanation. It just

brings it back to the question for me of whatever people might have

believed about ultimate ends and goals, we need to keep those goals in

mind, but also keep in mind what people think is worth making a sacrifice

for, worth working full time, and actually likely to be achieved in our

lifetimes or in the school age range of our children. That is as much a

framework that determines the course of Southern history through the Civil

Rights Movement as the ultimate goals, that I'm not saying we should ever

forget, but I want to keep those things in balance and look at their

relationship in a different way after we have the experience of

resegregation, among other things.

Thank you. Very good presentation, thank you.

I thank you to everyone who has presented and shared this morning.

[Lunch instructions]

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