The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Desegregation and the Arkansas Plan

Working through the Keith Finley thesis, I come across (p46a of Chapter 3) a name to earmark for possible future research: Rep Brooks Hays of Arkansas [1].

According to the article cited,
Hays proposed a civil rights bill to the House of Representatives on February 2, 1949. Hays's approach addressed four areas of race relations: integration of the military, abolition of the poll tax, lynch law, and fair employment practices. The Arkansas Plan differed from that of Truman in that enforcement of legislation would be left to the states rather than the federal government. Hays's attempt to bring justice to the area of civil rights, like other early attempts at civil rights legislation, met with defeat. Hays was not deterred, however, in his struggle to work for "proximate solutions" within the social structure of the South.

So far as I can tell from Voteview, Hays' bill never got a roll call vote in the House.

The bill is interesting as taking Richard Russell's temporising strategy to preserve Jim Crow - speaking softly, highlighting the constitutional rather than the racial aspects - just that bit further. Almost calling the bluff of colleagues using the states' rights arguments by pointing to a way to advance Negro rights without infringing states' rights.

The problem was that inherent in the Russell strategy was the notion of the single slippery slope: that to concede an anti-poll tax law would entail a step towards mongrelization - Bilbo's favourite expression is used even by smoothie Russell [2]. The obvious strategy - in order to keep on board the (mostly western) Republicans whose support was necessary to ensure the 33 votes required to defeat a cloture motion - would have been to give way on the items in Hays' bill.

But to acknowledge that Negro voting - of which, by 1950, there was a fair amount in the Confederacy, thanks to Smith v Allwright - did not lead inexorably to miscegenation (or even white folks calling Negroes Mr) would deny the logic of holding the Yankees as far from the citadel (the Flower of Southern Womanhood) as possible for as long as possible.

In 1950 - as in 1860 - the South was largely in the wrong in the court of Northern public opinion [3]. Though, just as many Northerners who opposed slavery in 1860 also opposed the abolitionists, there was no great appetite in the North to do much about it.

The ultimate aim of the South in 1950 should have been to put the Negro in the wrong, instead. Which would have needed years of combining immobility with sweet reason followed by violent uprisings by Southern Negroes.

But, for all their Cavalier pretensions, Southern whites couldn't manage it [4]. Massive resistance and demagoguery prevailed back at the ranch defeating any possibility of the Fabian strategy working in the hallowed halls of the Capitol.

Hays himself was defeated in the Arkansas 5th District in 1958 by Dale Alford. According to this bio of Alford, he
was elected to the US House of Representatives in a controversial election that took place during the Little Rock Crisis of 1958 becoming only the second write-in candidate. Alford jumped into the election against incumbent representative Brooks Hays after Hays called for moderation during the segregation crisis. Alford supporters had thousands of stickers made up with Alford's name printed on them and handed them out in front of polling places. Hays maintained a lead during the counting until an extra 20 ballot boxes arrived bearing ballots with the Alford stickers.

Alford did not contest the seat in 1962 - for the very good reason (I infer from this table of Arkansas Congressmen) that the 5th District was eliminated by the reapportionment following the 1960 Census! - and ran unsuccessfully against Faubus in 1962 and 1966.

As Dean Martin never actually sang, Too many Faubuses and not enough Hayses...

  1. There is, to my amazement, a 6,000 word article from 2003 looking at Hays' career from the Baptist viewpoint (Hays was a leading Baptist of his time, apparently) but has good things on his political career; for instance, a story about Governor Orval Faubus trying to persuade Hays and a couple of other Arkansas Congressmen to sign the Southern Manifesto.

    Hays was on the committee that drafted the civil rights plank in the Democratic platforms in both 1948 (February 22) and 1952.

  2. Talking about FEPC in 1949 or 1950 - the context isn't clear - Russell said (Finley Ch 3 p32a)
    I could never bring myself to accept the idea that these United States would be a better country if populated by a mongrel race.
  3. My hunch - I have no polling data. But Mr Gallup had been going fifteen years by then - I'm sure he has some.

  4. I seem to remember reading in WJ Cash's Mind of the South (not the gospel truth, but, then, what is?) of the propensity for violence of Southerners in excess of that met in other sections. No doubt there are quantitative studies on the point.

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