Theodore Bilbo (D-MS, 1935-1947)
Theodore Bilbo, the Mississippi demagogue and likely KKK member, committed his public service tenure to preserving segregation and used all power at his disposal to prevent African Americans from attaining equal civil and political rights. Bilbo, along with other Southern senators, embarked on one of the Senate’s longest filibusters to prevent passage of an anti-lynching bill, saying (on the Senate floor!) “If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded AngloSaxon white Southern men will not tolerate.”
In that same speech, Bilbo first dabbled with an idea to return all 12 million blacks to Africa. He introduced legislation to achieve that goal in 1938 and continued pushing for this “repatriation” during the Second World War. Upon the war’s completion, he added a new target for his vitriol: Jews. Defeating Nazism apparently didn’t defeat anti-Semitism at home.
Writing to Leonard Golditch, executive secretary of the National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism, Bilbo ranted that “there are five million Jews in the United States and the majority of them are fine public citizens, but if Jews of your type don’t quit sponsoring and fraternizing with the Negro race you are going to arouse so much opposition that they will get a very strong invitation to pack up and resettle in Palestine, the homeland of the Jews, just as we propose to provide for the voluntary resettlement of the American Negro in West Africa their fatherland. Now do not pop-off and say I am in favor of sending the Jews to Palestine. What I am trying to say to you is that there are just a few of you New York ‘kikes’ that are fraternizing and socializing with the Negroes for selfish and political and if you keep it up you will arouse the opposition of the better class of your race.”
Perhaps most shocking and stomach-churning, Theodore Bilbo published a book in 1946 entitled “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.” The racist manifesto furthered his efforts to popularize deporting all blacks to Africa, preying on racial anxieties and pointing to the “scientific” inferiority of blacks to argue that commingling of the races – which would lead to interracial marriages – would destroy white civilization. His own words best exemplify the true depths of his hatred and ignorance: “The experiences and history of thousands of years prove that whenever and wherever the white and black man have tried to live side by side the result has been mongrelization which has destroyed both races and left a brown mongrel people.”
For more on Theodore Bilbo and the role he played in the Senate, read Robert Caro’s incredible “Master of the Senate,” the third volume of his series on Lyndon B. Johnson.