Community Activism | Civil Rights | Education | Sources

Anti-Communism & Civil Rights

Map labeling communist, fascist, and Nazi camps in the United States with a detail of the South and the map key, c 1960s 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

bill smith 1 cr-2 cr-3 cr-4
Memo to Herman Glazier from Erle Johnston, Jr., Director of the Sovereignty Commission, July 23, 1964 Pamphlet produced by The Americans for Preservation of the White Race listing people and products that allegedly supported the Communist Party, c 1940s Winning essays from a Citizens' Council of Mississippi contest about segregation and communism, 1960 Sovereignty Commission report by an undercover officer, Operator #79, who volunteered at a Council of Federated Organizations office, May 14, 1964
cr-6 7-1 cr-9 10-1
Typewritten draft of Congressional Sidelights, a newspaper column written by Mississippi Congressman William Colmer about the role of communists in the Civil Rights Movement, April 1, 1949 Views of a Southern Negro Told by an anonymous writer.  Includes a section titled "Things you should know about communism."  c1960s The Road Ahead, a speech by Robert Patterson, the executive secretary of the Citizens' Council of Mississippi that compares the 1928 Communist platform to the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, January 15, 1965  The Klan Ledger, the official publication of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.  This issue highlights a letter to President Lyndon Johnson accusing him of discriminating against the Klan to appease his communist supporters, April 1965
11-1 12 cr-13  
Sovereignty Commission report documenting the arrival of the president of the National Council of Churches who had supposed communist ties, February, 13, 1964 Ku Klux Klan membership application card, c 1960s Map labeling communist, fascist, and Nazi camps in the United States with a detail of the South and the map key, 1941