Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi and a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, has been accused of praising a racist organisation.
By Nick Allen
The Telegraph | December 20, 2010
In an interview about his early days in the state's Yazoo City, Mr Barbour praised a group called the Citizens Council, which historians say was pro-segregation.
When asked about the civil rights era as a whole in his area, he said: "I just don't remember it as being that bad." Mr Barbour told The Weekly Standard that, where he was, the Citizens Council had been a group that protected people against the Ku Klux Klan.
"Up North they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organisation of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."
However, historians claim Citizens Councils across the South worked to preserve white racial supremacy and segregation in schools.
Derrick Johnson, Mississippi president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), said: "It's beyond disturbing. It's offensive that he would take that approach to the history of this state, to many African-Americans who had to suffer as a result of the policies and practices of the Citizens Council."
Mr Barbour's spokesman said opponents were "trying to paint him as a racist and nothing could be further from the truth."
Mr Barbour, a highly successful fund-raiser for the Republican Party, gained a national profile during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He was previously a Washington lobbyist for a firm that represented the tobacco industry.