The Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, a grassroots political organization created in Petersburg in October 1954, was dedicated to preserving strict racial segregation in Virginia’s public schools. A group of prominent Southside leaders formed the group following Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court decision, handed down on May 17, 1954, that mandated the desegregation of public schools. Opening chapters across the state and employing a variety of tactics, the Defenders rigorously confronted the Brown mandate, influencing the state commission that bestowed its blessing on the policy of Massive Resistance and even the temporary closing of public schools in Warren County, Norfolk, and Charlottesville. When Massive Resistance was declared unconstitutional, the Defenders organized a Bill of Rights Crusade and protested in Richmond, but the group’s support and influence was on the wane. It dissolved in 1967.
Author: David Pembroke Neff
Robert B. Crawford (1895–1973)
Robert B. Crawford was president of the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, a grassroots political organization dedicated to preserving racial segregation in Virginia’s public schools. Crawford, a veteran of World War I (1914–1918) and a former member of the Prince Edward County school board, helped organize the Defenders after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) mandated the desegregation of public schools. The group helped propel Massive Resistance until 1959, after which its political clout declined rapidly. Crawford resigned as the Defenders’ president in 1963, but supported the organization until it dissolved in 1967. He died in 1973.