Tag Archive for 'citizens councils'

From the Archives: Durham County Citizens’ Councils Advertisement Appalls Locals

Durham County Citizens' Council racist propaganda from 1968

This post contains highlights of material from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions. For more on this digitization project, click here.

An advertisement asking readers to “Compare the platform of the Communist Party and the Black Power or Civil Rights Movement,” was published in the Durham Herald circa 1968. The ad was sponsored by the Durham County Citizens’ Councils, a North Carolina branch of the white supremacist organization known as the “Citizens’ Councils of America” (and formerly as the “White Citizens’ Council”). The ad lists 1928 tenets of the Communist Party as proof that the mission of Civil Rights activists is aligned with a Communist agenda. It highlights goals that the Citizens’ Councils objected to, such as a “Federal law against lynching,” “Abolition of laws forbidding intermarriage of persons of different races,” and “Abolition of all Jim Crow laws.” The Citizens’ Councils’ fears are further illustrated by a map that marks a section of the South with the label, “the Black Republic;” land which the ad claims had been “promised Negro’s (sic) for their supporting Communist goals… [and was] now being demanded by Black Power Advocates.”1

The Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records contain the responses of some Durham Herald subscribers who were shocked and offended by the advertisement’s message. The printing of the Citizens’ Councils’ ad spurred many Triangle area readers to write in to the Editor of the paper, describing their disappointment and amazement at finding such a “blatantly untruthful” ad within the pages of the Durham Herald. 2 One such writer was John Paul Carter, who wrote passionately that by including this piece, the paper was reducing itself “to irrationality and hate-spawning.”2 
C.E. Edmondson of Hillsborough lamented, “How much longer must black Americans be subjected to such hatred and discrimination?”3 And Elma R. Knowlton dismissed the claims that the Civil Rights Movement is inherently “Communist-inspired,” saying it was instead “America-inspired,” a movement which “seeks not to destroy the hope and promise that is America, but to realize it.”3

You can read more about this incendiary advertisement in the Women-in-Action collection.

1. Advertisement. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005004

2. Letters to the Editor of the Durham Herald. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005003

3. Letters to the Editor of the Durham Herald. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005007

White Citizens Councils

You can’t understand the civil rights movement without understanding the opposition to it. White Citizens Councils, the jacket-and-tie complement to the Ku Klux Klan that did as much, if not more, to disrupt the path to full citizenship for African Americans.

This new online archive of The Citizens Council newspaper, published from 1955 to 1961, is a big step in that direction. The archive is complete and, according to its creator, fully searchable. Crystal clear scans and a fluid reading mechanism make it easy to get lost in the sinister poetry of the Council’s propaganda. “NAACP Plans for Police State Revealed” crows one headline; “Africans Not Ready to Govern Selves ‘Liberal’ Writer Finally Admits,” reads another.

The Citizen’s Councils, like their rivals in the civil rights struggle, saw themselves as part of a “movement.” They were “organizing for victory” (well, they weren’t, but that was the idea). Their efforts reveal the ways in which even groups in opposition to one another share strategies, whether they like it or not. Today’s Tea Party protesters owe as much to the traditions of civil rights protests as they do to their philosophical godparents in the Citizens Councils.