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The aim of those drafting the Southern Manifesto of 1956 was to coerce wavering Southern politicians into supporting a united regional campaign of defiance of the Supreme Court's school desegregation ruling. The Manifesto largely succeeded. Most Southern congressmen, including leading moderates, felt they had no alternative but to succumb to what they perceived to be mass popular segregationist sentiment and sign the Manifesto. This paper examines the cases of those who refused to sign: what were the sources of their racial moderation, did they face electoral retribution, or did their careers suggest there was a political alternative to massive resistance? The evidence from Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and North Carolina highlights the diversity of political opinion among the non-signers – from New Deal liberal to right-wing Republican ideologue – and the disparate sources for their racial moderation – national political ambitions, party loyalty, experience in the Second World War, Cold War fears, religious belief, and an urban political base. Their fate suggests, at the very least, that outside the Deep South there was room for political manoeuvre, especially if state political leaders took a united moderate stance. Nevertheless, the cautious and gradualist stance of the moderates did not offer a convincing alternative to the massive resistance strategy so passionately advocated by the conservatives.
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