Arkansas Faith was a short-lived newsletter published by the White Citizens’ Council of Arkansas in 1955 and 1956. Subscribers to Arkansas Faith paid a three-dollar membership fee to join the White Citizens’ Council of Arkansas and received the newsletter as part of their membership. The newsletter followed the larger Citizens’ Council of Mississippi’s format. Such publications were copied hundreds of times around the country. Although each chapter had a distinct name and local flair, they all followed a similar format that included articles featuring Christian nationalism, anti-Semitic tropes, opinion pieces from a white supremacist perspective, and pieces on anti-communism, segregation, and politics.
Arkansas Faith was edited by Curtis (Curt) Copeland, a transient segregationist newspaperman who co-founded the White Citizens’ Council of Arkansas along with then state senator James D. “Justice Jim” Johnson of Crossett (Ashley County). Both men were connected to the Citizens’ Council of Mississippi, the founding chapter of the segregationist organization.
Arkansas Faith served primarily as a campaign organ for the 1956 gubernatorial race of Johnson. Johnson and Copeland used the newsletter to convince Arkansas voters that segregation would be the deciding factor in the 1956 Democratic Party primary and that Johnson was the only candidate committed to stopping the integration of Arkansas’s public schools. Johnson’s opponent, Governor Orval Faubus, had maintained that integration was a local issue after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision declared public school segregation unconstitutional. This position was not controversial enough to garner statewide attention until the 1956 campaign. Curt Copeland used the newsletter, billed as the only “real news” in Arkansas, to accuse Faubus of being a communist sympathizer and of supporting race-mixing. The attacks on Faubus included reminding white voters of Faubus’s attendance at Commonwealth College in Mena (Polk County), connection to Governor Sidney McMath, and refusal to stop schools in Fayetteville (Washington County) and Charleston (Franklin County) from desegregating in 1954. Copeland conveniently left out that Faubus was not yet governor when these school boards voted to integrate. The attacks levied in Arkansas Faith helped make segregation the central issue in the 1956 Democratic primary and pushed Governor Faubus to defend segregation in the state.
Taking a page from other right-wing publications, Copeland used Arkansas Faith to accuse the state press, specifically the Arkansas Gazette, of being part of a global communist and Jewish conspiracy bent on destroying Christianity, southern culture, and the “true America.” The newsletter claimed that the Gazette was “more dangerous than the Communist Daily Worker.” Copeland’s attacks on the Gazette were meant to undermine its legitimacy with white Arkansans. Arkansas Faith also included attacks on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), civil rights activist and president of the Arkansas NAACP Daisy Bates, and any others they accused of supporting integration. After the campaign of 1956, Arkansas Faith disappeared from the historical record, but other far-right wing conspiratorial tracts continued to flood the country over the next half century and beyond.
For additional information:
Jim Johnson Collection. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
McMillen, Neil. “White Citizens’ Council and Resistance to School Desegregation in Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 30 (Summer 1971): 95–122.
Totten, Marie Cathryn. “‘A Rabble Rouser All the Time’: Jim Johnson and the Politics of Massive Resistance in Arkansas.” PhD diss., University of Arkansas, 2021. Online at https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/4139/ (accessed May 3, 2023).
Marie Cathryn Totten
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
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