This subseries documents the activities of the Southern Regional Office from the 1960's to the 1980's, including records of its formation and the court cases in which its staff litigated. In general, this subseries contains correspondence, memos, court documents, amicus briefs, publications, testimony, reports and studies, administrative files, personnel records, meeting minutes, and documents related to the history of the office. The Southern Regional Office files are grouped under eleven headings: Administrative files, Affiliates, Briefs, Case Files, Challenges, Georgia Voting Rights Legislation, Minority Land Project, Operation Southern Justice, Staff, and Subject files.
The Case files constitute the largest component of the Southern Regional Office records. This section contains 306 boxes of material, documenting court cases for which the office provided litigation in the thirteen Southern states. There is a generous amount of material pertaining to cases such as Armour v. Nix (1979), which held that an interdistrict remedy to integrating schools is not appropriate; Busbee v. Smith, relating to the legislative redistricting and elections, holding that elections could be held after the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, among other major cases. Many of the case files document ACLU's efforts to challenge injustice and segregation in public arenas, including schools, juries, prisons, and employment. Researchers might also be interested in the transcript and case materials in the Clay v. The United States which involved famed boxer and conscientious objector, Muhammad Ali, detailing his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army and the legal and professional ramifications that followed. Relatedly, the Briefs section includes material related to civil suits, appeals and appellant briefs, including those related to the Democratic Party of the State of Mississippi, the National Democratic Party, and the National Democratic Party of the State of Mississippi, among others.
The Administrative files include letters of correspondence and other documents related to the formation of the Southern Regional Office, organizational membership, financial and legal reports, and ACLU litigation policies and guides. In terms of the personnel and leaders associated with the regional office, researchers will find the Staff section of this subseries of interest, as it contains materials related to staff attorneys Morris Brown, Emily Calhoun Carssow, Christopher Coates, as well as case files compiled by director Charles Morgan Jr. In addition, the Affiliates section largely consists of records related to other regional chapters based in the South and its leadership structures.
The Alabama section contains records on the state's politics, census figures, voter laws, and various documents related to Alabama court cases. Relatedly, the Challenges records include materials concerning laws governing elections, due process, and the Southern Regional Office's preemptory challenges in the South, especially in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
In earmarking voting rights and racial discrimination as their signature aims, the Southern Regional Office initiated various projects to address these issues. In this subseries, there are records related to the offices' work on the Georgia Voting Rights Legislation; the Minority Land Project, which sought to investigate discriminatory practices in home and landownership and assist and educate minority landowners on their property rights; and Operation Southern Justice, a program that addressed segregation in the South's judicial systems. More generally, the Subject files covers the gamut of civil liberties issues in which the office was involved, as well as information pertaining to external organizations and projects that focus on ensuring civil liberties.
In Subgroup 2, see also Subseries 1G: Regional Offices, 1953-1985 and Subseries 3C.6: Equality Before the Law: Voting Rights, 1941-1975. In Subgroup 3, see also Subseries 2K: Voters' Rights Project.
Founded in 1964, the Southern Regional Office of the American Civil Liberties Union was established in Atlanta, Georgia, under the direction of civil rights attorney Charles S. Morgan, Jr. A longtime resident of Birmingham, Alabama, Morgan had a reputation for challenging the state's segregationists in the 1960s. At this time, Atlanta—self-proclaimed as a city "too busy to hate"—was arguably the epicenter of the social and political milieu of the African American struggle for justice and equal rights. Coinciding with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Southern Regional Office used the provisions of the act, making segregation in public accommodations unconstitutional, to address violations in the targeted areas of voting rights and racial discrimination. As part of these objectives, the office launched Operation Southern Justice and the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
Operation Southern Justice sought to desegregate administers of justice and to counter discriminatory practices in the South's judicial system. Of particular focus were correctional facilities, grand and trial juries, and the bar. Through the Supreme Court decision in Washington v. Lee, holding that the racial segregation of prisons and jails in Alabama was unconstitutional, Operation Southern Justice was instrumental in helping to end segregation in county road gangs, jails, and prisons throughout the South. The Voting Rights Project (VRP) was initiated in 1965 to educate and protect the voter rights of communities with racial and language minorities in the South. VRP addressed issues such as redistricting, election reform, and ballot access, among other barriers to voting. To date, under the auspices of the Voter's Rights Project, ACLU continues litigation to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on behalf of African Americans, Native Americans, ex-felons, and other historically debased citizens in the South and elsewhere.