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Senator James Eastland

Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, who has been called "The Voice of the White South," talks to Wallace about segregation, slavery, the Soviet Union, voting rights laws, and the Ku Klux Klan.
NOTE: This interview contains language that may be offensive to some people.

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Guest: Senator James Eastland

NOTE: This transcript uses the term “Nigra.”


WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of racial conflict from a United States Senator who has been called the “The Voice of the White South.” You see him behind me, he’s Senator James Eastland of Mississippi. If you’re curious to know what Senator Eastland thinks of the Ku Klux Klan, the law of the land, slavery, and segregation in the north … we’ll go after those stories in just a moment. My guest’s opinions are not necessarily mine, the station’s, or my sponsor’s – Philip Morris, Inc. – but whether you agree or disagree, we feel that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast.


WALLACE: And now to our story. Tonight, rather than explore the details of the Civil Rights Bill now pending in the Senate, we’re going after the story behind the South’s opposition to the integration of the races. Senator James Eastland of Mississippi speaks for a vast part of the white South, which believe Negro and white should live in peace … but … separately. Separate schools, separate restaurants, separate theaters, now and forever. Let’s try to find out why.

WALLACE: First of all, Senator, let me ask you this: I think the thing that is hard for some northerners to understand, is that southern whites apparently have no objections to every day contact with one kind of Negro … that is the necessary contact with Negro handymen, maids, butlers, chauffeurs, and the like. Yet the white South doesn’t want contact with Negroes as social equals in schools, theaters, restaurants, on buses and the like. Now … what is the logic behind that?

EASTLAND: Mike, the … your premise is wrong.

WALLACE: How so?

EASTLAND: Southern people believe in absolute economic equality between the races; and I think you will find that in southern states – you will find more Nigra property owners, more professional men, more school teachers, and more businessmen.

WALLACE: That’s understandable.

EASTLAND: In fact, they have made more progress than they have in any other section of the country. Now … 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. It’s not a badge of inferiority, or superiority.

WALLACE: Well, you’re talking about economic equality, Senator. What I’m talking about is social equality.

EASTLAND: Now … I’m getting to that. It’s found, throughout the years, you have more harmony and the races can make more progress under a system of separate … It might interest you to know this … now … after the south was defeated … when the white people were disfranchised 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. In South Carolina during reconstruction ….

WALLACE: Wait just a second … if I may interrupt for just a moment here, Senator. The only thing is we have a good deal of material to cover and I don’t want to get bogged down on this one. But what I’m talking about …

EASTLAND: Now let’s take South Carolina …

WALLACE: Well, now, Senator …

EASTLAND: … they passed a poll tax and they operated dual schools all over the south. Now that’s all I have to say.

WALLACE: Senator, that is not responsive to the question that I put to you. What I’m driving at is this: If a Negro maid or nurse is good enough to care for a white infant in the south – live with that infant – feed that infant – and so forth – why is not that same Negro maid allowed to eat the same restaurant with southern whites? I want to know the reason behind it.

EASTLAND: It’s a matter of choice.

WALLACE: Choice by the white.

EASTLAND: No, it’s a matter of choice by both races.

WALLACE: Are you suggesting….

EASTLAND: I’ve just told you that a reconstruction legislature composed principally of Nigras enacted our segregation statutes.

WALLACE: Are you suggesting the Negro …

EASTLAND: I’m suggesting that the vast majority of Negroes want their own schools, their own hospitals, their own churches, their own restaurants ….

WALLACE: Their own buses?

EASTLAND: Well, now … it would be impractical to operate two sets of buses, certainly.

WALLACE: Martin Luther claimed … Martin Luther King told us that for nearly a year, Senator, 95% of the Negroes in Montgomery, Alabama, walked or rode in car pools rather than ride in segregated buses. Evidently you’re suggesting to me …

EASTLAND: No sir, that wasn’t a fact. That … the trouble in Montgomery started because of mistreatment on the buses. Now, there is no law to date that would force integration on buses. And yet, the races segregate themselves on buses.

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that the Negro in the south wants segregation?

EASTLAND: I’m suggesting … oh, certainly.

WALLACE: The Negro in the south wants segregation.

EASTLAND: 99% yes.

WALLACE: And than a man like…

EASTLAND: I’ve tried to make it clear that they enacted the segregation laws.

WALLACE: Martin Luther King – we talked about this problem with him a few days ago – the Reverend Martin Luther King - he’s the Negro minister who led that Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, as you know. He told us as follows, Senator Eastland – he said: “Most southern whites will associate with the Negro in a master-servant relationship only. It’s an attempt to keep the majority of Negroes as menials,” he said. “Southern reactionaries,” he went on, “want to maintain a system of human values that developed during the slavery days.” Now, what about that?

EASTLAND: Well, that’s absolutely incorrect. Now the biggest business in my home is a Nigra insurance company. I employ a Nigra in an executive capacity. No, that is not true. As I said, we have more Nigra professional men, more businessmen, we have substantial Nigra cotton planters. In fact, they have made more progress in the south than in the north. The master-servant relationship today is largely a northern product.

WALLACE: The master-servant is largely a northern product.

EASTLAND: Why sure. You … because you have more Negroes in business and in the professions in the south than in any other area of the country.

WALLACE: Senator, let me ask you this question. A hundred years ago, southerners owned slaves. They bought and sold human beings … from an auction block. Do you think that those slave-owners did something that was morally wrong?

EASTLAND: Well, certainly I think human slavery is morally wrong. Now, you know that slavery was not a peculiar southern institution.

WALLACE: By no means.

EASTLAND: This whole country had slavery, and it’s very interesting that when the constitution of the United States was adopted, that the southern delegates to that constitutional convention wanted to stop the slave trade immediately. And it was delegates from New England who protested. And so they wrote into the constitution of the United States that the American Congress could not stop the slave trade prior to December 31, 1807. They did it over the protest of the southern delegates to that convention who wanted to abolish it at that time.

WALLACE: But I think that you’ll agree that there were very few abolitionists in the south at the time of the war between the states.

EASTLAND: Well, I think the war between the states was caused by other reasons.

WALLACE: Other reasons than the abolition of slavery?

EASTLAND: Why certainly.

WALLACE: Dare I ask you … when I say “dare I ask you” I mean … that we only have half an hour tonight and I wanted to get to some rather more pressing issues … so maybe I’d better forget about that. We can take that up another time, Senator. Now then, we’ve been talking about momentarily … about the race issue from a national viewpoint. Let’s look at it from an international angle, Senator … at what it does to our prestige abroad. The official communist newspaper – Soviet Union – Pravda – had this to say about Negro-white tensions in America back in September 10, 1956. They said: “How can one measure the bitter cup of humiliation and suffering from which the Negro people in the United States have been forced to drink in schools, in busses, in trains. Everywhere there are restrictions on Negroes imposed by the whites.” And they went on to say: “there is much praised democracy and freedom for you. It is this democracy which Washington, DC is trying to export.” That’s the quote. Now then, we won’t comment upon the believability, the credibility, or what we feel about Pravda. But, I’d like to put this question to you: Here is propaganda sent around the world. How do you think that propaganda like that affects our relations with millions upon millions of colored persons in Africa and Asia – countries whose friendship we want and need?

EASTLAND: Well, here’s what I think about that. Now that is, of course, you’ll admit, communist propaganda. They have said that the laboring man in the United States is a serf. They have charged that we have slavery in the United States. They have said the President of the United States plans atomic war. They have called the American people thieves, murderers, butchers. I say it’s a communist propaganda and nobody in the world, in the free world, pays any attention to communist propaganda.

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that this does not have a certain effect upon the colored peoples of the world, Senator?

EASTLAND: I couldn’t see where the colored people of the world would fall for propaganda, false statements from the Soviet Union. And I’d like to call your attention to this fact: there are more segregated schools in the Soviet Union than in any country in the world.

WALLACE: That I’d like to hear more about. There are more segregated schools … segregation of what kind?

EASTLAND: On racial lines.

WALLACE: You mean colored people?

EASTLAND: They don’t have colored people. But they have Asiatics. You’ve certainly read the reports from people who have been in the Soviet Union on that point. There’s no doubt about that.

WALLACE: There’s more segregated schools in the Soviet Union….

EASTLAND: … than in the United States, yes. They practice racial segregation in their schools, but that’s not the point. The point is that that’s propaganda against this country, just the same propaganda as when they say that we are butchers and thieves and murderers.

WALLACE: When you say propaganda – there is certainly more than an atom of truth in this, and if we want and need the friendship of the colored peoples of the world – will they not pick up on this and say – this is the way we treat our colored people in the United States.

EASTLAND: Well, to begin with – there’s not an atom of truth in that statement. It’s just communist propaganda.

WALLACE: In other words, when they say…

EASTLAND: It couldn’t affect any intelligent person – he'd spite it for what it is: communist propaganda.

WALLACE: Alright, Senator.

EASTLAND: Falsehoods on the part of the Soviet Union.

WALLACE: Let’s come back here to the United States. You obviously opposed integration of Southern schools so vigorously – not only because you feel it would be a bad thing but because you feel, I understand, that it could never work properly – is that not so?

EASTLAND: Well, I don’t think it will work.

WALLACE: You don’t – in another Southern area, Louisville, Kentucky, the superintended of schools Omar Carmichael has this to say about integration in his city. He said, “We expected desegregation to work but it’s worked beyond our fondest hope.” Now if it can work in Southern Louisville, Kentucky, why can’t it work in Mississippi?

EASTLAND: Well, to begin with, they have very little racial integration in Louisville, Kentucky. Now if he says it worked there, it certainly didn’t work a few miles from there at Clay, Kentucky or at Sturgiss, Kentucky or at Clinton, Tennessee and if I read the New York papers right, I see only yesterday that there was announced a zoning plan for schools in New York City by the Superintendent of Schools and a statement from the Chairman of the Urban League of New York City that that was defacto segregation in the schools of New York City.

WALLACE: Well, that has nothing to do actually, sir, with the question that I ask you.

EASTLAND: Well, I know….

WALLACE: If it can be made to work –

EASTLAND: If you raise a question as to the South, that’s one thing –

WALLACE: But you say it can’t work.

EASTLAND: But when the same thing is happening in the North then that’s something else.

WALLACE: No, I’m not – in a sense here, I’m the fellow who is supposed to ask the questions. I have asked you – I put it to you candidly – if – this is a very serious point of issue – if Superintendent Carmichael can make it work because the way he’s prepared to do in Louisville, Kentucky then it is possible it can work in other places in the South.

EASTLAND: Well, I think – no – I think where you have a real racial problem that it will not work, now –

WALLACE: Then you feel there’s no real racial problem in Louisville?

EASTLAND: I feel this as to – as to my state. Neither race wants it.

WALLACE: I think that there are those who would say, you nay – Let’s take another look at the problem of the Negro in the South and that is voting. We read in the national publications like Time Magazine for instance, the Negroes in the South are turned down for registration to vote because of unfair literacy tests – questions like for instance: How many bubbled are there in a bar of soap or how many persons are there on the payroll of the United States Government? A Negro who wants to register to vote can’t answer them successfully therefore he’s turned down on the basis of being illiterate. What knowledge have you of this kind of test, Senator Eastland?

EASTLAND: Well, I have enough knowledge of those allegations to know that there’s nothing to them. Now, your first statement was – how many bubbles in a bar of soap? That was a fable that was published in the magazine The Nation more than thirty years ago and was exploded at that time. People who thought –

WALLACE: Senator, Senator, according today – let’s not go back to The Nation Magazine thirty years ago. According to today’s Washington Sunday Star such tests came to light when Negro leaders gave quote sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee unquote of which you’re the head.

EASTLAND: Yes, and one of those witnesses who gave testimony like that was asked by Senator Erwin, the Chairman of the Sub –Committee which was conducting the hearing to come back the next morning and make his statement when he was under oath, when he could be cross-examined by Senator Erwin. You know the right of cross-examination is vital to ellicit what the facts are. This witness agreed to do that, his mentor the NAACP agreed in the hearing to have him back. That night he was spirited out of the city of Washington and did not return. At those hearings a witness also listed two murders – three murders in the state of Mississippi that he said were caused from voting. The press of the country carried it, lurid accounts all over the country, condemning our people, yet the facts were that in one of those cases no such thing had ever happened.

WALLACE: But Senator, I know –

EASTLAND: No. Wait a minute – just what I’m – let me get through now.

WALLACE: Alright.

EASTLAND: Another – there was a road running down by the side of a lake, a Nigra woman and her two children were in an automobile driving down by the side of the road – down by the lake – she lost control of her car and ran in – they went in and got her two children out but weren’t able to get her out – now that was charged as a murder in voting.

WALLACE: Let me – let me clean up one question.

EASTLAND: Now here’s – no – now I want to tell you this – let me just clean this up this way.

WALLACE: Alright.

EASTLAND: The leading Nigra Editor in my state in a front page editorial after that testimony said that if they send somebody to Washington they should send someone who would give the facts.

WALLACE: Alright, Sir, you’re trying to bring the facts to us tonight. Let me ask you –

EASTLAND: I’m saying that no such thing ever happened.

WALLACE: Let me ask you this, are you suggesting that your people down in the state of Mississippi encouraged Negroes to register and vote?

EASTLAND: Well, we have no race – no voting qualifications based on race –

WALLACE: Well, under those circumstances –

EASTLAND: We have none at all and anybody whose qualified to vote –

WALLACE: Well, under those circumstances how is it that only four percent – four percent of the qualified Negroes are registered to vote in your own state of Mississippi – approximately twenty thousand Negroes out of a half a million of eligible age?

EASTLAND: Well, now, those statements are incorrect. We have over twenty thousand Negroes who vote in the Democratic primary in the state of Mississippi, but we have many more than that – many thousands more than that who are registered –

WALLACE: I’ll tell you –

EASTLAND: Now wait a minute – let me get through now – oh no – wait a minute now – they do not vote 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 –

WALLACE: As far as you’re concerned – as far and you’re concerned –

EASTLAND: This is all through the state.

WALLACE: As far as you’re concerned then you’d like to see every eligible Negro in Mississippi vote?

EASTLAND: I would like to see -- just what we have –

WALLACE: Four percent –

EASTLAND: And that is – well that’s not correct and I have said that was an untrue statement.

WALLACE: Four percent vote – you said that twenty thousand vote and that’s four percent.

EASTLAND: Well, I said in the Democratic primary – in the primary but that we have many thousands who don’t vote in the Democratic primary because they are Republicans.

WALLACE: Then you’d like to see as many as possible vote?

EASTLAND: I would like to see is just what we have – that everyone who is qualified should vote.

WALLACE: Qualified by reason of –

EASTLAND: Our qualifications that are written in the law that apply to all races alike.

WALLACE: You think that no tougher literacy test should be given let’s say to a Negro than to a white.

EASTLAND: None are given.

WALLACE: Well, alright, Sir. I’d like a couple of opinions, Sir, about the following: What is your opinion of the Ku Klux Klan?

EASTLAND: Well, Mike, I am against any organization which indulges, which promotes racial and religious prejudice, hatred and bigotry.

WALLACE: And you think the Klan does it?

EASTLAND: I do from what I – now the only thing I know about the Klan is what I read, there’s not a Ku Klux Klan chapter in the state of Mississippi.

WALLACE: What is your opinion of John Casper and the Seaboard Citizens’ Council?

EASTLAND: Well, from what I read in the papers, the Seaboard Citizens’ Council is an anti-Semitic organization and I am very strongly opposed to it – now as for Casper, I don’t know Mr. Casper, I’ve never seen him, he’s been sentenced to jail, got two sentences and I’m not going to kick a man who’s down but I have no patience with his tactics.

WALLACE: Senator, you say that segregation in the South is not a matter of prejudice or caprice but a vital measure to protect the White race.

EASTLAND: No, to protect both races.

WALLACE: To protect both races! In view of that, I’d like to know what you think the North should do about segregating the races.

EASTLAND: Well, what we are fighting for is a great principle and that is for each state to handle its own domestic affairs. If the North wants segregation, integration, it’s their affair – if New York wants it, it’s their affair – under our system of government, the genius of the American system is control by the state of the domestic affairs of the states and we just want the right to handle it in our state for the best interest of all concerned and the way it is handled is endorsed by ninety-nine percent of the people of both races who live in peace and harmony and we have more peace and harmony than any section of the country – and we have less –

WALLACE: I think –

EASTLAND: We have less – we have less racial prejudice –

WALLACE: I think –

EASTLAND: Why Mike, I was in Hawaii last fall and I talked to the wife of one of the leading business men there, who had lived many years in the South and had lived many years in New York City and had lived many years in Honolulu and she made a statement that was very significant, she said that she really learned racial tolerance in the South.

WALLACE: I think that you could do the country a great service, Sir, by presenting documented facts to the effect that ninety-nine percent of the people of both races – of both races wants segregation in your state.

EASTLAND: Well, I – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

WALLACE: Senator –

EASTLAND: It’s very strange that we’ve never had a suit filed for school integration in the state. The NAACP has been unable to get people to sign bills of complaint or to authorize them to bring suit – they’re satisfied – you know that’s a question of where every amateur is an expert and where experience counts the most.

WALLACE: Senator –

EASTLAND: We’ve worked out the system that is harmonious.

WALLACE: I have just about a minute left and I want to get two quick answers if I can from you. At the offset, we said we didn’t want to get involved with details of the Civil Rights Bill pending – there’s one question that I would like to ask though about this Bill. If the South does not get what it wants in the way of modifications – I’m talking about Section Four in jury trials – will the South filibuster?

EASTLAND: Mike, I’ve been in the Senate for many years and I’ve never engaged in a filibuster. The Southern Senators have never filibustered but we have shown already the great force in this bill through a campaign of education and there will be a long campaign of public education.

WALLACE: A long campaign of public education will reach –

EASTLAND: Present the facts to the people.

WALLACE: It might take men as long as two or three weeks –

EASTLAND: No, they started – this was Reconstruction Bill Number Two.

WALLACE: This is Reconstruction Bill Number Two?

EASTLAND: This was – when it started , that’s what it was.

WALLACE: That is now pending before the Senate. – One yes or no answer to this one if you will, Sir – do you think Senator, the day will some in your lifetime when we will see an integrated South? Yes or no.


WALLACE: Thank you very much Senator for spending this time with us here in Washington. – Senator James Eastland of Mississippi speaks for a vast part of the White South on the race issue. In the North, Senators with equal conviction speak their lines; somewhere between these two poles a compromised Civil Rights Bill would seem to be emerging in the tradition of our Democratic processes. I’ll have a run-down on next week’s interview in just a moment.


Next week we go after the inside story of conflicts in major league baseball between players and team owners. Our guest – you see him behind me – will be retired speed ball king Bob Feller, who has already charged before a Congressional Sub-Committee that the players are as he puts it – “pawns in the hands of the front office.” If you’re curious to know why Bob Feller says that many players are afraid to speak up against their bosses, what he thinks about baseball from the spitball to Stengel, why he calls team owners who announced plans to move their clubs to other cities “loudmouthed magnates,” we’ll go after these and other stories from Bob Feller next Sunday. Till then, for Philip Morris, Mike Wallace, goodnight.