57 Years Ago Two Black Youth Challenged George Wallace and Won
As voices raise and people march for racial justice a watershed moment in civil rights is being marked by the University of Alabama today. On June 11,1963 the world watched as then Alabama Governor George C. Wallace followed up on a campaign promise to "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" in attempt to block the registration of two black youth, Vivian Malone and James Hood, as UA students. He stood in the door at Foster Auditorium but It did not stop them. The pair had already registered that morning making the stand a symbolic gesture.
On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy federalized Alabama National Guard troops and deployed them to campus to force its desegregation. The next day, in a highly choreographed and nationally televised moment, Wallace stood behind a podium, ostensibly blocking the way of U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.
Mr. Katzenbach read a presidential proclamation ordering that the students be admitted and asked the governor to step aside peacefully. Flanked by helmeted State Troopers, Wallace delivered his speech and denied Jones and Hood entry...
NOW, THEREFORE, I, George C. Wallace, as Governor of the State of Alabama, have by my action raised issues between the Central Government and the Sovereign State of Alabama, which said issues should be adjudicated in the manner prescribed by the Constitution of the United States; and now being mindful of my duties and responsibilities under the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Alabama, and seeking to preserve and maintain the peace and dignity of this State, and the individual freedoms of the citizens thereof, do hereby denounce and forbid this illegal and unwarranted action by the Central Government.
To which Katzenbach replied...
“I’m not interested in this show.”
About four hours later Katzenbach returned with the now federalized Adjutant General of the Alabama National Guard Henry Graham who asked Wallace to step aside, which he did.
JFK spoke to a national audience hours after the Alabama showdown, outlining his plans for federal legislation to make way for further integration.
Vivian Malone Jones went on to become UA’s first black graduate and Jimmy Hood later earned a PhD from UA.
UA had actually integrated in 1956 when Autherine Lucy started classes under guard at UA as a graduate student. Her presence was met with riots, and the administration found excuses first to suspend, and then expel her shortly after she enrolled.
Today UA President Dr. Stuart Bell, in a video, honored Malone and Hood, celebrating the "transformational Impact" that event has had on the university. "Much progress has been made," Dr. Bell stated, "but or nation, our state and our beloved institutions continue to struggle from many of the same issues as nearly six decades ago." He promised the capstone will continue to seek inclusiveness.