The white South’s opposition to court-ordered desegregation in the 1950s was known as “Massive Resistance,” and while Georgia’s reaction wasn’t as violent as other states, it was no less defiant.
On this day in 1956, Governor Marvin Griffin addressed a joint session of the General Assembly and urged lawmakers to invoke the doctrine of interposition and declare the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decisions null and void in the state. The House immediately did so and further maintained that Georgia had never surrendered its sovereign right to have racially separate schools and that there was a contest of powers between the state and the Supreme Court.
Lawmakers also authorized Griffin to close any public school ordered to integrate, and to use public school buildings and money for private schools. Griffin kept his campaign promise: school desegregation didn’t begin in Georgia until 1961.
Conflict between the states and the federal government continues and is as old as the republic, a contest exemplified by the dramatic events of February 6, 1956, Today in Georgia History.