MATERIAL: Printed
TYPE: Leaflet
COMPONENTS: 1p. 8vo.
CONDITION: Light creasing at left, else fine condition.
ITEM ID: 5041
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Racist Anti-Ford Company Leaflet

DATE
Decade: 1960s
Century: 20th (1901-2000)

Racist printed leaflet, published by the Citizen’s Council of Greater New Orleans in 1960, addressed to “all white citizens”, reading in part: “…MILLIONS and MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars of Ford profits have been distributed… to civil rights organizations to fight the white people of the SOUTH… forcing them to associate with negroes… being used to destroy our Southern way of life… DON’T BUY A FORD EVER AGAIN”.

The Citizens’ Councils (commonly referred to as the White Citizens’ Councils) were an associated network of white supremacist organizations in the United States, concentrated in the South. The first was formed on July 11, 1954. After 1956, the name was Citizens’ Councils of America. With about 60,000 members across the United States, in the South, the groups were founded primarily to oppose racial integration of public schools following the US Supreme Court ruling in 1954 that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. They also opposed voter registration efforts in the South, where most blacks had been disenfranchised since the turn of the 20th century, and integration of public facilities during the 1950s and 1960s. Members used intimidation tactics including economic boycotts, firing people from jobs, propaganda, and threatening and committing violence against civil-rights activists. Unlike the secretive Ku Klux Klan but working in unison, the White Citizens Council met openly. It was seen superficially as “pursuing the agenda of the Klan with the demeanor of the Rotary Club”. From October 1954, the council published a newsletter, The Citizens’ Council, which evolved into a magazine in October 1961 and continued to be published until 1989 as “The Citizen”.

Among its other activities, throughout the last half of the 1950s, the White Citizens’ Councils produced racist children’s books, for instance, teaching that heaven (in the Christian conception) is segregated.

On July 16, 1956, “under pressure from the White Citizens Councils,” the Louisiana State Legislature passed a law mandating racial segregation in nearly every aspect of public life; much of the segregation already existed under Jim Crow custom. The bill was signed into law by governor Earl Long on July 16, 1956 and went into effect on October 15, 1956.

Medgar Evers’ first work for the NAACP on a national level involved interviewing Mississippians who had been intimidated by the White Citizens’ Councils and preparing affidavits for use as evidence against the Councils if necessary. Evers was assassinated in 1963 by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council and the Ku Klux Klan. The Citizens’ Council paid Beckwith’s legal expenses in his two trials in 1964, which both resulted in hung juries. In 1994, Beckwith was tried by the state of Mississippi based on new evidence, in part revealed by a lengthy investigation by the Jackson Clarion Ledger; he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

By the 1970s, following passage of federal civil rights legislation and its enforcement by the federal government, the influence of the Councils had waned considerably.