On July 28, 1957, Mike Wallace interviewed anti-civil rights Senator James Eastland of Mississippi on his CBS show. The Civil Rights Act of 1957, primarily a voting rights act with the goal of ensuring all African-Americans could exercise their right to vote, was under consideration in the Senate. Sen. Eastland headed up the judiciary committee, where the bill was in the process of being significantly altered to achieve compromise between pro- and anti-rights factions. Wallace refrained from questioning Eastland about the pending bill, seeking his opinions on segregation, slavery, the Soviet Union, voting rights laws, and the Ku Klux Klan during the hour-length show.
In this post, I will quote Eastland accurately, as offensive as that may be. Wallace used the term “Negro” to refer to African-American citizens in 1957; Eastland used both “Negro” and “Nigra”.
Sen. Eastland’s statements included:
“This doctrine of the separation of the races has been involved over many years by both races. It’s not something that one race has imposed on another race.”
“After the south was defeated [in the Civil War], when the white people were disenfranchised and could not vote, the first reconstruction legislature of my state controlled by members of the Nigra race passed three laws: one, that there be segregation on trains and in public transportation; two, that there be a separate school system; three they levied a poll tax; four, they made it a felony for the races to intermarry and provided a life sentence in the penitentiary for one who crossed that line.”
“The vast majority of Negroes want their own schools, their own hospitals, their own churches, their own restaurants.”
“I’m suggesting . . . 99% of Negroes in the south want segregation, certainly.”
“The war between the states was caused by other reasons [than the abolition of slavery].”
“I don’t think . . . where there is a real racial problem . . . that [school integration] will work.”
“[Negroes] do not vote [in Mississippi] because they have a long history of Republicanism, they are members of the Republican Party, and of course they cannot vote in the Democratic primary which is the election in our state. The Republican Party doesn’t even run candidates.”
“Segregation in the south . . . is to protect both races.”
And, finally, Wallace asked, “Do you think, Senator, the day will come in your lifetime when we will see an integrated south?”
Eastland’s reply: “No.”
Image Credit: Mississippi Department of Archives and History