The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Citizen's Council/Civil Rights Collection
Neil Raymond McMillen was born in 1939 at Lake Odessa, Michigan, but has spent most of his adult life in the South. In 1961, McMillen received a B.A. in history and English and in 1963 a M.A. in history, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1969, he received his doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University; his dissertation was titled "The Citizens' Council: A History of Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954-1964." After receiving his doctorate, he returned to the University of Southern Mississippi as an assistant professor and in 1978 was appointed a full professor.
In 1971 Dr. McMillen published a book, The Citizens' Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954-1964, which was based upon his dissertation. The bulk of the materials contained within this collection were gathered by McMillen while he was conducting his doctoral research. Additional materials were added while he was writing the book published by the University of Illinois Press, and in subsequent years.
Dr. McMillen has written numerous articles, contributed to edited works, and presented scholarly papers on the subject of civil rights. His 1989 book, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow, won the 1990 Bancroft Prize for exceptional merit and distinction in American History. In addition, he has conducted oral history interviews with such notable Southern civil rights leaders as Dr. Aaron Henry and Fannie Lou Hamer and with former governor Ross Barnett.
This collection consists of materials related to the Citizens' Council, the Ku Klux Klan, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, other civil rights groups and related individuals. The Citizens' Council was one of over 40 pro-segregated organizations formed after the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Brown v. Board Education)May 17, 1954, which barred segregation in public schools.
The first White Citizens' Council was formed in Indianola, Mississippi, in 1954. This local group was soon joined by others, and within three months a state association of councils was formed in Winona, Mississippi. By 1956 a national group, the Citizens' Council of America, had been formed with headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, where the organization received funding from the state of Mississippi.
Materials contained within Box 1 concerning the Citizens' Council include correspondence regarding organizational meetings, copies of the constitutions of several Citizens' Council groups, and Citizens' Council Conference programs. In addition, there are copies of McMillen's letters requesting more information about the Citizens' Council. Of special interest is an October 1, 1967, letter from Meredith Crown who was elected secretary of the Sacremento Citizens' Council. This organization began as a Citizens' Council group but evolved into a Civil Rights group. Mrs. Crown tells of her involvement in the "inside job".
Also included is correspondence from Sam Engelhardt who was a former Alabama state senator and executive secretary of the Alabama Citizens' Council. Mr. Englehardt donated his materials to the Alabama Department of Archives and History and granted McMillen permission to use `anything that would be of help'. Within Box 2 are nine folders which contain information concerning the Citizens' Council. Included are newspapers (1966-1967), reports, resolutions, and speeches (1962-1967). Of special interest is an address made by William J. Simmons (Administrator, Citizens' Council of America) to the organizational meeting of the Greater Los Angeles Citizens' Council.
Information about the Ku Klux Klan is contained in folders 11-16 of Box 2. These materials include journal articles, circulars, and brochures. Of special interest are Ku Klux Klan membership applications (folder 12) and newspaper clippings (folder 13) which show some of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan.
Also contained within Box 2 are materials pertaining to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), specifically the Constitution and By-Laws of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and various brochures and reports.
Finally, Box 2 also includes information about other civil rights groups, as well as miscellaneous materials. Among these is a body of materials concerning Dr. Aaron Henry, who was Chairman of the Democratic Party of the State of Mississippi as well as an active civil rights leader. Much of the correspondence in folder 21 is from Dr. Henry to various public officials (Congressmen, NAACP leaders, and Democratic Party members). Folder 23 contains the Constitutions of the Democratic Party of the State of Mississippi (adopted 1970) and the Young Democrats of Amrica. Of interest to researchers may be a b rief paper by Terry L. Alford -- "The Underground Press in Mississippi Since the Ole Miss Crisis of 1962." (Mr. Alford and McMillen corresponded frequently concerning their various dissertation projects.) Other items which may be of interest include various newspaper articles, journal articles, and photographs. Folder 30 contains two photographs (one of a housing project and one of a community center - Aaron Henry is in each photograph) autographed by Dr. Henry, as well as autographed photographs of Lurleen Wallace and George Wallace.
Box 3 contains additional materials and information about other civil rights groups, individuals, and their activities. Of interest are news releases (folder 1) from the Democratic National Committee, a statement from Senator George McGovern, and a telegram from the Democratic National Chairman to Governor George Wallace. Folder 4 contains a copy of Race and Reason: A Yankee View by Carleton Putnam. Folder 5 contains numerous political pamphlets for such candidates as Ross Barnett (1967 governors campaign) George Wallace (1968 presidential campaign), and Dr. Aaron Henry (1971 legislative campaign).
Another item of interest (folder 7) is a copy of the Dallas Morning News (dated November 22, 1963) welcoming `Mr. Kennedy to Dallas'. This was the date that President Kennedy was assassinated. Folders 8-12 contain magazine articles, newsletters, pamphlets and single copies of newspapers; all are about the race issue. Folder 17 will be of special interest to researchers. It contains an address by Erle Johnston Jr. of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and an address by Governor William Waller to the Mississippi Democratic State Convention in 1972. Folder 18 includes a series of hate flyers from Mark Margoian and folder 19 contains a Byron De La Beckwith letter to the Louisiana State University Press, correspondence and enclosures exchanged between Beckwith and Neil McMillen, and letters in opposition to a statement by McMillen in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Folder 20 contains correspondence between Neil McMillen and Erle Johnston (former director of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission), and Folder 21 contains a narrative describing the lynching of L.Q. Ivy (a 17-year-old African American male accused of raping a white woman in Union County, Mississippi in 1925).
While this collection does not document the activities of any one organization or individual, it does provide insight into the Civil Rights struggles that occurred in Mississippi from the mid-1950s through the 1970s.
Copies of The Citizens' Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954-64 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971) are available in the Cook and McCain Libraries, call number HS2330.C483 M33.
Copies of Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989) are available in the Cook and McCain Libraries, call number E185.93.M6 M33 1989.
Transcripts of oral history interviews conducted by Dr. McMillen with persons who played significant roles in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi are available in the McCain Library, call number F341.5 .M57: