Maddow: Barbour's Segregationist Ties Undermine His Presidential Ambitions

Rachel Maddow did a nice job of explaining why Boss Hogg Barbour isn't likely to be our next Republican presidential candidate. Dave Neiwert's been writing about Haley Barbour for some time now as he reminded us in his post earlier this week, but
up

Rachel Maddow did a nice job of explaining why Boss Hogg Barbour isn't likely to be our next Republican presidential candidate.

Dave Neiwert's been writing about Haley Barbour for some time now, as he reminded us in his post earlier this week, but it's good to see this picking up some traction in the media as well and not just on Rachel Maddow's show -- Haley Barbour winks and nudges at the ol' White Citizens Council folks again.

MADDOW: Those very old, very amazing clips live today in the NBC News archives. They`re indexed under the term, "Citizens Council." The old white segregationist group is in the news now in 2010 because now in 2010, a man who wants to be president in 2012 this week praised the influence of the Citizens Council in segregation-era Mississippi, where he was born and where he`s now governor.

Haley Barbour telling "The Weekly Standard," quote, "You heard of the Citizens Council? Up north, they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from, it was an organization of town leaders."

Haley Barbour`s spokesman initially tried denying that the governor had ever said the thing that he said. The spokesman said, quote, "Governor Barbour did not comment on the Citizens Council movement`s history. He commented on the business community in Yazoo City, Mississippi." And that caused coffee to shoot from the noses of blog readers everywhere and many keyboards were ruined.

Haley Barbour decided instead that he would eat crow. He said on his Web site, quote, "The Citizens Council is totally indefensible, as is segregation."

Because Haley Barbour would like to be president, getting it on the record that he thinks the Citizens Council, as he said, is totally indefensible, that is probably mandatory for him. That`s because the history of the Citizens Council in his hometown in Yazoo City is clear and it is ugly and it is all over the Internet.

In 1955, for example, there was a petition to the school board in Yazoo City for integration. In response, the Citizens Council you took out a big advertisement in the town paper. It listed the names of the people who signed the petition for integration.

This is the council`s ad here. It was reprinted in a 1955 report about Yazoo City in the "Afro-American" newspaper. We saw this linked in the comments on "Huffington Post" actually.

When you`re asking for integration in 1950s Mississippi and the Citizens Council posts your name all over town, one account says they even propped this list up in cotton fields around town -- when you`re one of those people who dared to ask for equal treatment and this is the response from those town leaders and the Citizens Council, what do you think happens to you if your name is on this list, huh?

Quoting from the article in the "Afro-American," "Many signers have been penalized by loss of employment. Under this pressure, some have removed their names from the petition. J.H. Wright, a plumbing contractor listed above lost two construction jobs, was refused plumbing supplies by a wholesale house and his grocer told him a loaf of bread would cost him a dollar. He plans to move elsewhere."

He plans to move elsewhere. Destination: unknown. Anywhere but Yazoo City, because that organization of town leaders Haley Barbour praises for helping Yazoo City integrate peacefully and all, that organization has run this man out of town.

By 1988, the Citizens Council had become the Council of Conservative Citizens. Their links to the anti-immigration people pushing SB-1070 in Arizona helped them make our TV show back in April.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We have the picture of the Web site here, Council of Conservative Citizens? Yes. "Erectus walks among us" is a sort of a mock- up between a black person and an ape. They also have this summary of a recent Al Sharpton interview, quote, "Sheriff Arpaio debates the nappy headed race hustler."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s the current incarnation of this Citizens Council Mr. Barbour so fondly remembered before he then roundly condemned it.

The Council of Conservative Citizens is mounting a boycott of the movie "Thor" because the movie makers cast an African-American as a god. Fetishizers of Norse God will get you for that.

You might think Haley Barbour, defender of peaceful integration, would want nothing to do with a group like this, but you would be wrong. Here is Haley Barbour in 2003 making a campaign stop at a barbecue hosted by the Council of Conservative Citizens. That`s him right there, third from the right. He`s standing with the council`s field director.

I`d like to show you this picture as it originally appeared on the council`s Web site. But as Dave Weigel reported this week, they actually replaced Mr. Barbour`s photo on their Web site with this -- the caption is still there from when they had the photo, at least in the old Internet archives. But now, instead of the picture of Haley Barbour, they`ve just put up a big picture of a rebel flag and it says "Confederate Wave" on it.

And no, we did not PhotoShopped in this giant rebel flag. We did not make this up. This is what they replaced Haley Barbour with on their Web site.

The reason Haley Barbour was visiting with the fine folks with the Council of Conservatives Citizens at their barbecue is that it was a fundraiser. He was helping them raise money for a private academy that is sponsored by the council -- a private school founded by the Citizens Council as an all-white, pro-segregation school. It was led for many years by the same Citizens Council field director that Haley Barbour was standing with in that disappeared picture.

I don`t want to show you the faces of the kids who go to that school now because where they go to school is not necessarily their choice. But here`s the faculty. This was founded as a segregated school in Mississippi, specifically to keep white kids safe from integration with black kids.

The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Education show that in 2007, this school had 403 students. Kindergarten through 12th grade. Two students were Asian. Every one else, the other 401 were white.

That`s what Haley Barbour was raising money for in 2003. The Citizens Council all white school founded to keep black kids out, that today is still doing it.

How is it that Mr. Barbour phrased his clarification this week? "The Citizens Council is totally indefensible, as is segregation"?

As we reported on the show back in September, Mr. Barbour raised two sons in Yazoo City. They both went to this private school, this private school that admitted its first black student in 1996, when one of his boys was about to graduate.

Clearly, Mr. Barbour made some kind of peace with segregation, at least in his own family`s life. This story is a bit about whether or not Haley Barbour is going to be the Republican nominee for president. I think he will not be.

But there are very powerful forces in Republican politics who really want Haley Barbour to be the party`s nominee, or at least a serious contender. And part of the process of making Haley Barbour into a national candidate is making us believe the version of Mississippi, the version of Yazoo City that they have shined up for Haley Barbour`s political resume, where the Citizens Council were the good guys, and white people didn`t have a problem with integration. And the transformational social movement and the murderous conflagrations around it that fought segregation, those are just weren`t that big a deal and everything`s fine now.

The problem for Haley Barbour and the Republican Party that wants him to be their presidential nominee is that the rest of us get to refuse to go down that memory hole. It is our country and history is a real thing.

Joining us next is the wonderful Melissa Harris-Perry, Princeton professor who knows her Southern history and our American racial politics. And I suspect she is not buying Mr. Barbour`s version of it.

We will be right back.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.