In this WSB newsfilm clip from 1956 (presumably February 6, 1956), Georgia governor Marvin Griffin recommends a resolution of interposition to the Georgia General Assembly, in response to pressure from the Supreme Court following the decision Brown v. Board of Education.
Addressing a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly, Governor Marvin Griffin speaks into a series of microphones, and professes that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to declare segregated public schools unconstitutional; therefore Georgia may not be held accountable for violating federal law in continuing to operate segregated schools. Furthermore, he establishes, the state should be able to legally assert that the Supreme Court "overstepped its authority," declare the court's decisions null and void, and "justify before the nation the interposition of her sovereign power between the court and her public schools."
The clip jumps to another point in Griffin's address where he asks the General Assembly to adopt a resolution "declaring the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States in the cases relating to the public schools of Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware and Kansas to be null, void, and of no effect." The audience applauds. After another jump in the clip, Griffin emphatically states that "there is no provision in the federal constitution dealing with education, or with schools. Not one word, not one syllable," and that "education is one of the subjects reserved to the states." He refers to the act of interposition as "our first, last, and only absolute remedy. Interposition is the assertion of our rights in the hope of preventing a situation which would lead to the abandonment of the public school system. It is an appeal to reason."
On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine established by the court in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision and ruled that segregated schools denied black students equal protection under the law, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a following opinion on the case delivered on May 31, 1955, and known as Brown v. Board of Education II, the Supreme Court ordered local authorities to integrate their schools "with all deliberate speed." However, without a binding provision to implement the Supreme Court's ruling, the power to carry out the Brown decision still remained with state and local authorities. As a result, many Southern states ignored the decision. Several southern states passed interposition resolutions to neutralize recent federal rulings on segregation. Part of a larger southern movement of segregationist "massive resistance," supporters of interposition intentionally displaced race-based arguments for segregation with broader political principles such as states' rights and constitutional interpretation. Interposition provided a way for segregationists to identify themselves as saviors of rational constitutional principles, rather than as obstructionists failing to comply with federal law. In January 1956, Governor Marvin Griffin, who had been elected on a strongly pro-segregation platform, proposed six bills for the legislative session aimed at upholding segregated education in Georgia. The purpose of the legislation was to permit the governor to authorize the sublease of state property to private schools; empower the attorney general to prevent teachers from attempting to integrate their classes locally; permit private school teachers to join the state teachers' retirement plan; and to adjust fire code regulations in buildings that were anticipated to be used by private schools. The General Assembly passed this legislation. On February 6, 1956, Governor Marvin Griffin addressed the Georgia General Assembly in joint session to enact a resolution of interposition against the Brown v. Board of Education rulings. The General Assembly enacted the resolution on March 9, 1956, nullifying the Supreme Court's decision with a vote of 179 to 1. That same year, the General Assembly also passed an appropriations act prohibiting the state from funding integrated schools.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of governor Marvin Griffin addressing the General Assembly on segregation and keeping public schools open, Atlanta, Georgia, 1956, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0920, 3:49/05:49, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.