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The Council of Conservative Citizens: What Is It?

The group that first attracted Dylann Roof to organized racism and may have inspired his murder of nine black South Carolinians was formed in 1985 as the modern reincarnation of the White Citizens Councils, which were set up in the 1950s and 1960s to resist the desegregation of Southern public schools.

The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) was founded by Gordon Baum, a St. Louis attorney who had been the Midwest field director of the White Citizens Councils. It included several other officers of the older organization, and was built using that group’s mailing lists. It has chapters around the South and in some other states, and is strongest in Mississippi, where the original group began.

The CCC initially worked to put up a veneer of respectability, and it hosted hundreds of local, state and even national politicians over the years at its events. Most Americans first heard of it in 1998, when a scandal erupted over the revelation that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had spoken to its members five times. As a result, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson asked party members to quit the group because of its racist views.

Nevertheless, six years later, a Southern Poverty Law Center investigation found that no fewer than 38 federal, state and local elected officials had attended CCC events between 2000 and 2004, most of them to give speeches. After that, the CCC stopped publishing the names of politicians who worked with it or spoke to its members, and very few are believed to have done so since that time.

The CCC is unrepentantly racist. Its platform statement says that it opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” It has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity” and “genetically inferior,” complained about “Jewish power brokers,” accused immigrants of turning America into a “slimy brown mass of glop,” and called LGBT people “perverted sodomites.” It even named Lester Maddox, the now-deceased, ax handle-wielding, arch-segregationist former governor of Georgia, as its so-called “Patriot of the Century.”