Today we’ll be looking at putting together some context for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s defense of the pro-segregationist Citizens Councils of the 1950s and ’60s South.
Dave Weigel over at Slate points out that Barbour has a history with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a descendant group of the Citizens Councils. In 2003 Barbour went to the “Black Hawk Barbecue” to court the group while running for Mississippi governor.
We did a little more digging, and, turns out, it caused some controversy at the time. People called for Barbour to have his photo removed from the group’s web site. Barbour refused.
“Once you get into that, you spend your time doing nothing else,” Barbour told the AP in 2003 (via Nexis). “I don’t care who has my picture. My picture’s in the public domain. It gets published in newspapers every day.”
He also called some of the group’s beliefs “indefensible.”
Barbour won that election. His opponent, Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, didn’t use Barbour’s appearance at the CCC event to attack him.
That may be because Musgrove, according to local news reports, had attended more than one CCC event himself during past campaigns.
In case you missed it, Barbor told The Weekly Standard, that the tumults of civil rights movement weren’t so bad in his hometown of Yazoo City, and credited the segregationist Citizens Council with keeping the Ku Klux Klan out of town.
The White Citizens Council movement was founded in Mississippi in 1954, shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated public schools, and was dedicated to political activities opposing civil rights — notably boycotts of pro-civil rights individuals in Barbour’s hometown, as opposed to Barbour’s recollection of actions against the Klan.
In an interview with TPM yesterday, Barbour’s spokesman insisted that the governor is not a racist.