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“C” is for Citizens’ Councils

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  “C” is for Citizens’ Councils. Founded in 1954, in Indianola, Mississippi, Citizens’ Councils quickly spread across the South. The organization promoted a membership as a “respectable” way for disgruntled segregationists to protest civil rights activism. The councils distributed pro-segregation propaganda and attempted to protect the legality of racial segregation. Although they denounced violence, they encouraged organized economic pressure against African Americans and whites that were sympathetic to desegregation. South Carolina’s first council appeared in Orangeburg County in August 1955. By October representatives of thirty-eight chapters met in Columbia to form the Association of Citizens’ Councils of South Carolina. Within a year they claimed forty thousand members in fifty-five councils. The driving force behind the state organization was S. Emory Rogers. Although Citizens’ Councils remained active into the 1960s, after 1958, membership never topped one thousand.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.