Anti-NAACP Laws

Fenwick Claims NAACP Activity Killed Gray Plan

Richmond Times-Dispatch.  September 26, 1957

During preparations for the Extra Session of the Virginia General Assembly, in August-September1956, Fenwick presented the lawyer for the Gray Commission, David J. Mays, with draft legislation that Mays described in his diary as intended to “harass the NAACP in Virginia.”  At the time, the NAACP was engaged in a litigation campaign to enforce implementation of Brown in several states, including Virginia. Fenwick was one of twenty-nine cosponsors who introduced six anti-NAACP bills in the Senate on September 5, 1956.[21]  These bills “redefined commonly accepted legal practices related to the solicitation of clients” and required any persons or groups to disclose their sources of funding and membership to the State Corporation Commission if they promoted or opposed the passage of legislation, influenced or attempted to influence public opinion, or solicit funds to pay litigation costs on “behalf of any race or color.”  Aside from diverting significant NAACP resources away from its litigation campaign, the identification of NAACP supporters led to the collapse of “hundreds of branches in the South,” including “a disproportionate number of Virginia branches.”[22] The individual statutes at issue would not be invalidated by a state court until 1962 and by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1963.[23]

Fenwick defended the legislation as promoting “harmonious relations between the races” by curtailing “the activities of organizations initiating racial suits.”  Blaming the NAACP’s “determination to ‘force’ mass integration” for the rejection of the Gray Commission’s proposal for locally administered pupil placement plans, Fenwick asserted Virginians could sort out race relations for themselves if irresponsible NAACP and white integrationist agitators did not stir up litigation.[24] However, by interfering with individuals’ legitimate right of redress in the courts, this legislation only served to undermine the efficacy of peaceful resolution by the courts and would have encouraged the pursuit of alternate means of redress. At the very least, this legislation would have undermined Fenwick’s stated intent of minimizing the potential for social unrest.

[21] Senate Journal, Virginia. Extra Session 1956 (Richmond, 1956), September 5, 1956, 47-51.

[22] Daugherity, Keep On Keeping On, 55-56.

[23] NAACP v. Harrison, Chancery causes No. B-2879 and B-2880, August 31, 1962. NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963).

[24] “Fenwick Claims NAACP Activity Killed Gray Plan,” Richmond Times Dispatch, September 26, 1957, 4. “Fenwick Says NAACP Thwarted Grey Plan,” The Evening Star, September 25, 1957, B-2. Charles R. Fenwick, “Register to Think,” The Washington Post, December 12, 1956, A14.

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