March 12th, 1956

The Southern Manifesto

By March 12, 1956, Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia had convinced 101 of the 128 congressmen from Southern states, representing eleven states of the old Confederacy, to sign "The Southern Manifesto on Integration." The document claimed that the United States 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 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," referring to the era of racial terror and a Jim Crow legal caste system that had been reality for most black Americans 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," which 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.