Interposition Resolution by the Florida Legislature in Response to Brown v. Board of Education, 1957, with Handwritten Note by Florida Governor LeRoy Collins


In 1957, the Florida State Legislature passed a resolution in opposition to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Topeka, Kansas, case that ended legal segregation in public education. Racial segregation was originally found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. The decision laid the foundation for what became known as Jim Crow laws by declaring segregation legal if the facilities were “separate but equal.” The Brown decision removed that foundation, and many segregationists saw the case as an opening wedge to end all segregation. The Florida Legislature argued that the decision usurped the state’s constitutional power and passed a resolution to declare the court's 1954 decision null and void. The "interposition" resolution was intended to interpose itself between the citizens of Florida and the United States government in response to what the legislature contended was an illegal intrusion by the federal government on the rights of the state. Although he initially condemned the Brown decision, as did the majority of Southern elected officials, Governor LeRoy Collins sought to prevent the legislature from passing the resolution. He utilized a little-known provision of the state constitution to unilaterally adjourn the legislature to prevent passage. After the legislature returned and passed the resolution, he had no power to veto it because it was not a law, but only a resolution expressing the opinion of the legislature on the matter of racial integration. However, as it passed through his office, Collins hand-wrote the following note at the bottom of the resolution: "This concurrent resolution of 'Interposition' crosses the Governor's desk as a matter of routine. I have no authority to veto it. I take this means however to advise the student of government, who may examine this document in the archives of the state in the years to come that the Governor of Florida expressed open and vigorous opposition thereto. I feel that the U.S. Supreme Court has improperly usurped powers reserved to the states under the constitution. I have joined in protesting such and in seeking legal means of avoidance. But if this resolution declaring the decisions of the court to be 'null and void' is to be taken seriously, it is anarchy and rebellion against the nation which must remain 'indivisible under God' if it is to survive. Not only will I not condone 'interposition' as so many have sought me to do, I decry it as an evil thing, whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion, prejudice, and hysteria. If history judges me right this day, I want it known that I did my best to avert this blot. If I am judged wrong, then here in my own handwriting and over my signature is the proof of guilt to support my conviction. LeRoy Collins, Governor. May 2, 1957." Presented here is the complete text of the resolution, with Collins’s handwritten note at the bottom of page nine.

Last updated: October 17, 2014