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Taking the Stand: Theodore Bilbo's 1946 Senate Hearing and the Complexities of Mississippi's Post-War Civil Rights Struggle




Wakefield, Zachary L.

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In the spring of 1946 Theodore Bilbo, campaigning for his second term as United States Senator, called on every “Red-blooded Anglo–Saxon male” in Mississippi to use whatever means necessary to keep African Americans from voting in July’s Democratic Primary. Undeterred, African Americans went to the polls in record numbers only to be met with violence from whites who heeded Bilbo’s call. From December 2-5, 1946, the Senate conducted a hearing on the election at which sixty-nine African American testifiers argued that Bilbo’s speeches had been directly responsible for election day violence. However, Bilbo managed to retain his seat. No work details the influence of the hearing on President Truman’s domestic policy. Not only does the hearing hold special significance for Truman’s administration and the post-World War II civil rights movement as a whole, but it also allows one to hear the voices of non-veteran civil rights activists, which adds much-needed complexity to the historical understanding of the post-war struggle for civil rights.