At The Corner yesterday, Hans von Spakovsky offered a compelling explanation: Carter himself has a history of virulent racism. The facts, drawn from A Voting Rights Odyssey by Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU’s Voting Project, are astonishing:
When Carter returned to Plains, Georgia, to become a peanut farmer after serving in the Navy, he became a member of the Sumter County School Board, which did not implement the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision handed down by the Supreme Court. Instead, the board continued to segregate school children on the streets of Carter’s hometown. …
Carter’s board tried to stop the construction of a new “Elementary Negro School” in 1956. Local white citizens had complained that the school would be “too close” to a white school. As a result, “the children, both colored and white, would have to travel the same streets and roads in order to reach their respective schools.” The prospect of black and white children commingling on the streets on their way to school was apparently so horrible to Carter that he requested that the state school board stop construction of the black school until a new site could be found. The state board turned down Carter’s request because of “the staggering cost.” Carter and the rest of the Sumter County School Board then reassured parents at a meeting on October 5, 1956, that the board “would do everything in its power to minimize simultaneous traffic between white and colored students in route to and from school.”
You can see how such episodes could leave Carter with a guilty conscience.
What seems most extraordinary about that story, however, is that I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. It seems impossible that a candidate with such a racist past could be elected President. It seems equally impossible that a history so repellent could be kept quiet in today’s media and political world. After all, we’re not talking about Carter’s personal life here, but rather about his service on the local school board.
1956 may seem like ancient history now, but it wasn’t in 1976. Reporters could have delved into Carter’s record if they had wanted to. Yet, to the best of my recollection, these facts never came out in either of Carter’s two presidential races. One wonders whether this is one of many sleeping dogs that, over the years, the liberal media have been happy to let lie.