John Stennis was the Democrat Senator from Mississippi from 1947 to 1989. Stennis opposed anti-poll tax amendments, anti-lynching legislation, the Fair Employment Practices Committee, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968. After the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, Stennis proposed maintaining segregation by improving African American schools so that integration could be rendered unconstitutionally unnecessary. Stennis was among 19 Democrat senators who signed the Southern Manifesto in defiance of the Brown vs. Board decision.
The Southern Manifesto was signed on a large mahogany conference table in Stennis' office which Stennis used as his desk and referred to as "the flagship of the Confederacy." The table was used by segregationist and co-signer of the Southern Manifesto Sen. Richard Russell before his retirement. After the majority Democrats defeated the Civil Rights Act of 1957, Republicans reintroduced the bill. Senate Democrat Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson told Stennis, "Let's face it. Our ass is in a crack. We're gonna have to let this n***er bill pass." According to former Harvard historian and Johnson staffer Doris Kearns Goodwin, LBJ explained his position thus:
"These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference."
Johnson went on to say,
"I’ll have those n*****s voting Democrat for the next 200 years.”
"To think that I would be one day on the floor of the United States Senate, being paid such accolades by such a man of character and courage as John Stennis is beyond my wildest dreams. And I mean that sincerely."
Stennis gifted the mahogany conference table upon which the Southern Manifesto was signed and Biden took over Stennis' office space. When Sen. Biden was elected Vice President in 2008, Biden had the flagship of the Confederacy conference table moved into the Vice President's residence.
- Biography or Autobiography. Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Caro, Robert A. (2002). The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Volume 3. New York: Knopf. p. 954. ISBN 0394528360.
- Goodwin, Doris Kearns (1977). Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. New York: New American Library. p. 155. ISBN 0451140826