Anti-Communism & Civil Rights
Following World War II, the fight against communism became a worldwide issue. Communism had been a threat prior to this time, but only after WWII was the topic discussed in every town in America. The United States had always been concerned about the infiltration of communism into American society, but it became a political emphasis in the 1940s through the 1980s. This issue was particularly important in Mississippi because of the inferred involvement of civil rights workers in the communist movement. The tactic of referring to all people who supported integration as "communists" was heavily employed in Mississippi by the government and various segregationist groups.
Mississippi had numerous anti-communism activists and programs. Politicians used anti-communism as an important tool to preserve "the southern way of life." This preservationist approach was particularly useful in Mississippi when trying to prevent integration. Because the Communist Party supported equal rights for African Americans, people who worked in the civil rights movement were referred to as communists. Eventually, many politicians in the South would label anyone a communist who disagreed with them on any issue. Being branded a communist caused many innocent people to lose their jobs and livelihoods, as well as being ostracized by their communities.
In 1956, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was formed. The formal mission of this state funded organization was to preserve state's rights. The committee's main focus was to fight federal efforts to integrate Mississippi, as well as educate the public on the "evils of communism." The Commission had an investigative unit that would "obtain facts which will be of value in protecting the sovereignty of this State and preserving segregation in Mississippi." Agents followed suspected civil rights activists and submitted activity reports to the Director of the Sovereignty Commission, Erle Johnston. Johnston suggested that the investigative unit make identifying and collecting information about communists in the civil rights movement a priority.
The Mississippi Citizens' Council was another segregationist organization that associated the Civil Rights Movement with communism. The Citizens' Council, often referred to as the "uptown Klan," was comprised of society leaders, politicians, and other influential community members. According to some Citizens' Council leaders, the philosophy of the group was very similar to the Ku Klux Klan, but the Council claimed to not promote violence against African Americans, as the Klan sometimes did. With pressure to label all civil rights workers as communists, the Citizens' Council started to incorporate the theme of communism into their literature and speeches.
Anti-Communism & Civil Rights Images