White Citizen Council: Analysis and Criticism


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The Citizens’ Council, formally referred to as the White Citizens Council, was a white supremacist group created in the South. The Council was formed in the 1950s after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Under the leadership of Robert B. Patterson, The Citizens’ Council in efforts to resist desegregation was formed on July 11, 1954. It was started in Indianola, MS, and expanded to other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Missouri. It attracted middle to upper-class civilians, most of them politicians, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, and businessmen. The Citizens’ Council lasted approximately 25 years, from 1954 – 1979. Unlike the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups during the civil rights movement, the Citizens’ Council was not rooted in violence. Instead, the Citizens’ Council focused on using economic, social and political pressures to oppress African Americans and supporters. While common stereotypes perceive racism to be behavior exemplified by the working and uneducated class, the Citizens’ Council proved that racism was well practiced by educated, upper class citizens.

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Characterized by their fear of miscegenation, the Citizens’ Council chronicled an important time in American history when it was not a law, but the people themselves that restricted each other from achieving civil rights. As Earl Johnson, a former member of the Citizens’ Council writes, “…it looked like to me that the Citizens’ Council was just stirring up hate among whites and really was accomplishing nothing except just building an organization of members paying dues.” The Citizens’ Council monitored all aspects of life in the Deep South with the aid of Jim Crow laws hoping to retain the status quo prior to the move towards integration. They heavily influenced outcomes of elections, health care policies, economic sanctions and progress, school districts, and other agenda.

Analysis And Criticism

The Citizens’ Council, curiously enough, practiced deliberation at the social and analytical process. By conforming to each other’s racist ideals, the Citizens’ Council united under a common fear of integration. Deliberation is the act of interaction through peoples as they evaluate choices and reach solutions. When members met for their weekly meetings and discussed recent news, deliberation occurred because they tried to address current issues by gathering resources and agreeing on actions to be taken. But why did such a vast movement of a shared political thinking fail? Political Communication and Deliberation, written by John Gastil, explains the necessary components of deliberation. At the analytical level, the spread of information through mass media successfully created a solid information base for users, and clearly identified a set of values that defined the Citizens’ Council. Yet, the organization ultimately failed to continue its influence on society as the civil rights movement was embraced by the rest of the nation. The Citizens’ Council largely focused on the process of enticing members to join, while following up on results or brainstorming various ways to execute their opinions.

At the social level, the Citizens’ Council adequately fulfilled criteria to ensure mutual comprehension, but failed to respects its citizenry by giving the average citizen little opportunity to express their experiences to the big leaders that charismatically led the way. The Councils were hardly a community-friendly organization as they were controlled by the most rich and most powerful of society. The decline of this organization can only be accredited to the lack of coherent political deliberation.

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