Our favorite would-be Republican presidential nominee, Haley Barbour, got a wide-eyed adulatory write-up in the Weekly Standard yesterday that included this nugget:
Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Kelly had told me that Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so.
“Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”
In interviews Barbour doesn’t have much to say about growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. “I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”
Just to stipulate: In reality, the Ku Klux Klan in the South, both immediately after the Civil War and in its post-1915 reincarnation, in fact always was an organization of town leaders -- but secretly. The White Citizens Councils were merely their public face. As the Wikipedia entry puts it:
Members of the Citizens' Council were sometimes Klansmen, and the more influential the Citizens' Council member, the more influence he had with the Klan. In fact, the WCC was even referred to during the civil rights era as "an uptown Klan," "a white collar Klan," "a button-down Klan," and "a country club Klan." The rationale for these nicknames was that it appeared that sheets and hoods had been discarded and replaced by suits and ties. Much like the Klan, WCC members held documented white supremacist views and involved themselves in racist activities. They more often held leadership in civic and political organizations, however, which enabled them to legitimize discriminatory practices aimed at non-whites.
If you want to see for yourself, check out the archives of the old WCC newsletters. You get the flavor pretty quickly.
Matt Yglesias runs a sample from the archives and observes:
The Citizens’ Councils were, right in the state of Mississippi where Barbour is from, the respectable face of white supremacist political activism. Here’s an example from the Association of Citizens’ Councils pamphlet: “Why Does Your Community Need a Citizens’ Council?”
Maybe your community has had no racial problems! This may be true; however, you may not have a fire, yet you maintain a fire department. You can depend on one thing: The NAACP (National Association for the Agitation of Colored People), aided by alien influences, bloc vote seeking politicians and left-wing do-gooders, will see that you have a problem in the near future.
The Citizens’ Council is the South’s answer to the mongrelizers. We will not be integrated. We are proud of our white blood and our white heritage of sixty centuries.
Haley Barbour gives these people credit for keeping things calm!
Of course he does. That's because, as we pointed out, Barbour won election in 2003 by openly consorting with the Council of Conservative Citizens -- which is in fact the direct descendant of the White Citizens Councils, having been organized on its bleaching bones. Barbour also campaigned by promoting the Confederate flag.
When he was finally called on it, Barbour just winked and nudged and pretended that it was all just harmless gee-whiz folks stuff. Just as he is now.