Tuesday, June 11, 2013



Fifty years ago today June 11, 1963 marks one of the strangest, most extraordinary and pivotal days in American history in a year--1963--that remains one of the most truly tragic and inspiring in the annals of both the United States and the world. In one of those weird synchronicities of major public events that seemed to characterize the 1960s era four earth shattering incidents occurred in the United States that would have profound, and ultimately even revolutionary national and global implications. These four astonishing incidents all took place within a mere eight hour span on June 11, 1963 and involved the racist assassination of a renowned Civil Rights leader and activist from Mississippi named Medgar Evers by a KKK assassin, a game changing and unprecedented speech to the nation by President John F. Kennedy who announced on television for the first time since he took office in 1961 his firm political and moral support and advocacy of strong national civil rights legislation on behalf of African American ("Negro") citizens, a major press conference announcement by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and legendary black labor leader and organizer A. Philip Randolph as well as other major civil rights leaders and organizers from SNCC, CORE, the NAACP, and the Urban League along with leading figures in the the national labor movement, of plans to organize, sponsor and participate in a massive demonstration in the nation's capitol called 'The March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom ' , scheduled for August 29, 1963; and a national confrontation between the U.S. federal government via its Deputy Attorney General and the notoriously racist segregationist Governor George Wallace who literally stood in the schoolhouse door in a vain attempt to block two black students Vivian Malone and James Hood from physically entering the University of Alabama to register for classes there. In response the President and his brother Robert F. Kennedy the Attorney General of the United States federalized 4,000 Alabama National guardsmen to enforce the constitutional rights of the two black students to enter the school and register and demanded that the Governor step aside which after being granted a brief demagogic speech on his fervent support of "state's rights" (and  thus deeply hostile institutional opposition to racial equality via integration) Wallace finally complied.

Attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, Democratic Governor George Wallace stands defiantly at the door of the Foster Auditorium while being confronted by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.


(Originally posted on January 22, 2013):

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Inspiring Courage of James Hood (1942-2013) and the Profound Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement


Editor's Note: This article and my response marks the beginning of what will be a year long series of articles, essays, commentary, and critical analyses by myself and others of the profound and ongoing historical impact of the pivotal years of 1963 and 1863 in the history of this nation and that of its African American citizens. 

In this June 9, 1963 file photo University of Alabama students James Hood and Vivian J. Malone  pose in New York

History/Time is really moving and I mean FAST. It's incredible: I remember so clearly this very day--June 11, 1963-- that James Hood and Vivian Malone-- accompanied by the U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicolas Katzenbach and National Guard troops-- walked right past the arch segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace who, along with Alabama state troopers, was literally standing in the front entrance door of the University of Alabama trying to physically block them from entering. I watched this entire dramatic episode on television with my parents in Detroit. I was absolutely fascinated by this event and my visceral response to it left a very sharp and absolutely indelible impression on me as a child. A huge synapse went off in my head not only because of what Hood and Malone and the Kennedy administration did--that was extraordinary enough!--but by what also happened on that very same day. Imagine: Less than 10 hours after this event Medgar Evers the legendary NAACP leader and activist from Mississippi (age 37) was assassinated as he was shot in the back by a KKK assassin just as he was taking out his keys to open the front door of his home just before midnight as his wife and three children watched in horror as they came to the door to greet him. Evers had been at a long meeting of the NAACP that evening discussing the events of that same day which also included a groundbreaking speech by President Kennedy just four hours earlier on national television in which for the very first time his administration made a clear and definitive committment to pushing for and demanding that civil rights legislation be passed--another event I witnessed with my parents on TV that evening. I remember like it was yesterday with my father saying to me in a very serious tone that I "really needed to see and hear what the President had to say" and that it was very important that I "pay close attention." My mother and father were watching the speech with such intense riveted interest that I was again mesmerized by what I saw and heard the president say. In that speech before the entire nation Kennedy said the following:


Finally on this very same day(!!) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legendary black labor union leader A. Phillip Randolph announced that they and a national coalition of civil rights organizations, labor unions, civic groups, activists, clergy, and ordinary citizens were organizing a national event known as the 'March on Washinston for Jobs and Freedom' to be held in the nation's capitol of Washington D.C. in two months on August 28, 1963. WHAT AN AMAZING DAY IN AMERICAN HISTORY.  I rest my case...


James Hood Dead: Man Who Defied Racial Segregation At University Of Alabama Dies At Age 70
Huffington Post

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — One of the first black students who enrolled at the University of Alabama a half century ago in defiance of racial segregation has died. James Hood of Gadsden was 70.

Officials at Adams-Buggs Funeral Home in Gadsden said they are handling arrangements for Hood, who died Thursday.

Then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace made his infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door" in a failed effort to prevent Hood and Vivian Malone from registering for classes at the university in 1963.

Hood and Malone were accompanied by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach when they were confronted by Wallace as they attempted to enter the university's Foster Auditorium to register for classes and pay fees.

Wallace backed down later that day and Hood and Malone registered for classes.

UA President Judy Bonner remembered Hood as a man of "courage and conviction" for being one of the first black students to enroll at the university.

"His connection to the university continued decades later when he returned to UA to earn his doctorate in 1997. He was a valued member of The University of Alabama community, and he will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time," Bonner said.

Hood was the last survivor among the major figures in the schoolhouse door incident. Wallace died in 1998, Vivian Malone Jones in 2005 and Katzenbach last year.

After enrolling, Hood remained at UA for a few months and moved to Michigan, where he received a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and a master's degree from Michigan State.

He later moved to Wisconsin, where he worked at the Madison Area Technical College for 26 years. He retired in 2002 as chairman of public safety services in charge of police and fire training.

He finally returned to UA later in life to earn his doctorate.

Culpepper Clark, author of "The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama," called the schoolhouse door incident "an iconic moment" in the Civil Rights Movement because it provided a confrontation between Wallace and the Kennedy administration. He said the incident was "symbolically important" and helped lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Clark described Hood as a man with a lot of "intellectual energy" who understood the importance of what he did at the University of Alabama in 1963.

"He didn't try to make it into more than what it was," Clark said.

The Rev. Preston Nix grew up in Etowah County and said he knew of Hood, who was several years older than he.

Nix said it took a lot of courage for Hood to challenge the segregation at the University of Alabama in 1963.

Nix said he felt Hood did what he did partly to "pave the way" for others to be able to improve themselves and get a higher education and partly because he wanted to attend the University of Alabama.

Samory Pruitt, vice president for community affairs at UA, agreed with Nix.

"Because of what he did, people like me were afforded the opportunity to go to the University of Alabama," said Pruitt, who is black. "I think it's about people having the opportunity to be the best they can be."

Posted by Kofi Natambu at 1:28 PM  on January 22, 2013

Labels: American racism, Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Governor George Wallace, Jr., Jsmes Hood, March on Washington, Medgar Evers, President Kennedy, University of Alabama, Vivian Malone

An epochal moment for civil rights in a single day: 11 June 1963

Fifty years ago, three seminal events – a standoff with Alabama's governor, a presidential speech and the murder of Medgar Evers – left an indelible mark on American history, writes

by Gary Younge
Tuesday 11 June 2013

In the early morning of 11 June 1963, Attorney General Robert Kennedy examined maps of the University of Alabama's Tuscaloosa campus as his three young children played by his feet. Within 18 hours, his brother, the president, had given an impromptu national address on civil rights, the Alabama governor had confronted the federal authorities on national television and blinked, and one of the movement's most prominent leaders had been gunned down outside his home.

In retrospect, the events that summer Tuesday – some planned, most spontaneous, and all more hostage to eventualities than planning – would become emblematic of the trajectory of the nation's racial and political dynamics for the next 50 years.

Bobby Kennedy was trying to work out the federal government's options for getting two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, registered for classes on campus at the university. A few hours later, in a choreographed piece of brinkmanship, Alabama's segregationist governor, George Wallace, stood at the entrance to the Foster auditorium, flanked by state troopers, to refuse them entry. The students went to their dorms while Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach ordered Wallace to allow them in. Wallace refused and delivered a speech on states' rights.

President Kennedy then federalised the Alabama national guard and ordered Wallace's removal. "Sir, it is my sad duty to ask you to step aside under the orders of the President of the United States," said General Henry Graham. Wallace made another quick announcement, stepped aside and Malone and Hood registered.

"They knew he would step aside," Cully Clark, author of The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama, told NPR. "I think the fundamental question was how."

"It had been little more than a ceremony of futility," wrote journalist and Wallace biographer Marshall Frady:

"And, as a historical moment, a rather pedestrian production. But no other southern governor had managed to strike even that dramatic a pose of defiance and it has never been required of southern popular heroes that they be successful. Indeed, southerners tend to love their heroes more for their losses."

The previous day the president's inner circle was divided as to whether he should deliver a televised national address on civil rights. They decided to wait and see how things went in Alabama. After the incident had passed with more theatre than chaos, they unanimously advised the speech was now unnecessary.

Kennedy decided to ignore them, calling executives at the three television networks himself to request airtime. In The Bystander, Nick Bryant describes how, with only six hours to write the speech, Kennedy's team struggled to pull anything coherent together. Minutes before the cameras rolled, all they had was a bundle of typed pages interspersed with illegible scribbles. His secretary had no time to type up a final version and his speechwriters had not come up with a conclusion. With the cameras on, Kennedy started reading from the text and, for the last four minutes, improvised with lines he'd used before from the campaign trail and elsewhere.

"If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?"

Kennedy went on to reflect on the issues of black unemployment and the slow pace of integration, described how the south was embarrassing the nation in front of its cold war adversaries and announced plans to introduce civil rights legislation. In Bryant's assessment:

"The speech was the most courageous of Kennedy's presidency. After two years of equivocation on the subject of civil rights, Kennedy had finally sought to mobilize that vast body of Americans who had long considered segregation immoral, and who were certainly unprepared to countenance the most extreme forms of discrimination."

A thousand miles away, in Jackson, Mississippi, Myrlie Evers – who, in 2013, would deliver the invocation at President Barack Obama's second inauguration – had watched the presidential address in bed with her three children. Her husband, Medgar, the field secretary of the state's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organisation in the country), arrived home just after midnight from a meeting with activists in a local church, carrying white T-shirts announcing "Jim Crow Must Go".

Lurking in the honeysuckle bushes across the road with a 30.06 bolt-action Winchester hunting rifle was Byron DeLa Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and Klan member from nearby Greenwood. The sound of Evers slamming the car door was followed rapidly by a burst of gunfire. Myrlie ran downstairs while the children assumed the position they had learned to adopt if their house ever came under attack. By the time she reached the front door, Medgar's body was slumped in front of her. A bullet had gone through his back and exited through his chest. A few hours later, he was pronounced dead.

On the day of Medgar Evers' funeral, around 1,000 black youths marched through town, joined later by their elders. When police ordered them to disperse, scuffles broke out. The crowd chanted:

"We want the killer."

Meeting their demand should not have been difficult. The rifle that was fired was traced to Beckwith, whose fingerprints were on its telescopic sight. Some witnesses reported seeing a man who fit his description in the area that night, as well as a car that looked like his white Plymouth Valiant. If that wasn't enough, he'd openly bragged to fellow Klansmen about carrying out the shooting. Though it took several weeks, he was eventually arrested on the strength of this overwhelming evidence, and charged with the murder.

It was then that matters took an all-too predictable turn. Not once, but twice, in the course of 1964, all-white juries twice failed to reach a verdict. Beckwith was arrested again in 1990, and finally found guilty in 1994. He wore a confederate flag pin throughout the hearings. He died in prison in 2001.

Between them, these three events, which all took place within a day, would signal the end of a period of gruesome certainty in America's racial politics – and the beginning of an era of greater complexity. What soon became evident was threefold: the economic stratification within black America, the political realignment of southern politics and the evolution of the struggle of equality from the streets to the legislature.

Wallace's otiose performance and Beckwith's murderous assault typified the segregationists' endgame: a series of dramatic, often violent, acts perpetrated by the local state or its ideological surrogates, with no strategic value beyond symbolizing resistance and inciting a response. They were not intended to stop integration, but to protest its inevitability. And while those protests were futile, they nonetheless retained the ability to provoke, as the disturbances following Evers' funeral testified.

The years to come were sufficiently volatile that even ostensibly minor events, such as a traffic stop in Watts, Los Angeles, or the raid of a late-night drinking den in Detroit, could spark major unrest. The violence and chaos that ensued polarised communities – not on issues of ideology or strategy, but on the basis of race, in a manner that weakened the already dim prospects for solidarity across the colour line.

As Myrlie Evers, who went on to dedicate her life to nonviolent interracial activism, recalled:

"When Medgar was felled by that shot, and I rushed out and saw him lying there and people from the neighbourhood began to gather, there were also some whose colour happened to be white. I don't think I have ever hated as much in my life as I did at that particular moment anyone who had white skin."

In Malone and Hood's registration at the University of Alabama that day, we saw the doors to higher education and, through them, career advancement, reluctantly being opened for the small section of black America that was in a position, at that time, to reap the fruits of integration. There had been a middle class in black America for a long time, but as long as segregation existed, the material benefits deriving from that status were significantly circumscribed, particularly in the south.

Race dominated almost everything. A black doctor or dentist could not live outside particular neighbourhoods, nor eat in certain establishments, nor be served in certain stores. Whatever class differences existed within the black community, and there were many, they were inevitably subsumed under the broader struggle for equality.

With integration, however, came the fracturing of black communities, as those equipped to take advantage of the new opportunities forged ahead, leaving the rest to struggle with the legacy of the past 300 years. Wealthier people could move to the suburbs, their kids could integrate in white schools, and from there go on to top universities.

But this success brought its own challenges. The doors of opportunity were only opened to a few – but enough for some to ask, in the absence of legal barriers, that if some could make it, then why not others. Black Americans no longer fell foul of the law of the land, yet still remained on the wrong side of the law of probabilities: more likely to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned; less likely to be employed, promoted and educated.

For most black Americans, the end of segregation did not feel like the liberation that had been promised. After the Watts riots, Martin Luther King told Bayard Rustin, who organised the March on Washington:

"You know Bayard, I worked to get these people the right to eat hamburgers, and now I've got to do something … to help them get the money to buy them."

With Kennedy's appeal for legislation, we saw the shift in focus moving from the streets of Birmingham to Washington's corridors of power. This was progress. Changing the law had been the point of the protests. Within a year, Lyndon B Johnson, who that November assumed the presidency in the wake of Kennedy's assassination, signed the Civil Rights Act; within two years, he'd signed the Voting Rights Act.

But the shift from protesters' demands to congressional bills limited possibilities for radical transformation. Clear moral demands were replaced by horsetrading. Marchers cannot be stopped by a filibuster; legislation can. Rustin's argument ran as follows:

"We were moving from a period of protest to one of political responsibility. That is, instead of marching on the courthouse, or the restaurant or the theatre, we now had to march the ballot box. In protest, there must never be any compromise. In politics, there is always compromise."

The trouble was the nature of the deal-making was itself in flux. By aligning himself with civil rights, Kennedy would end the Democratic party's dominance of the south. The next day, southern Democrats would respond by defeating a routine funding bill. "[Civil rights] is overwhelming the whole, the whole program," House majority leader Carl Albert told him. "I couldn't do a damn thing with them."

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers wrote that when Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act a year later, "he was euphoric'":

"But late that very night, I found him in a melancholy mood as he lay in bed reading the bulldog edition of the Washington Post with headlines celebrating the day. I asked him what was troubling him. 'I think we just delivered the south to the Republican party for a long time to come,' he said."

Johnson's fears were well-founded. The Republicans, sensing an opportunity, decided to pitch a clear appeal to southern segregationists in particular, and suburban whites in general, on the grounds of race. This would create a thoroughgoing transformation in the nation's politics that is only today, in the 21st century, beginning to unravel.

"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said shortly before the last presidential election.

That day, 11 June 1963, epitomised the beginning of the end for business as usual.

Gary Younge's The Speech: the Story Behind Martin Luther King's Dream will be published by Haymarket Books in August. Follow him on Twitter @garyyounge 



General Henry Graham salutes and then confronts George Wallace on behalf of the federal government and the lawful enrollment of black students at the University of Alabama

Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, Democratic Governor George Wallace stands defiantly at the door of the Foster Auditorium while being confronted by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.

The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door took place at Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, in a symbolic attempt to keep his inaugural promise of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" and stop the desegregation of schools, stood at the door of the auditorium to try to block the entry of two black students, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood.

The incident brought George Wallace into the national spotlight.


See also: African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968) and Brown v. Board of Education

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision regarding the case called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the plaintiffs charged that the education of black children in separate public schools from their white counterparts was unconstitutional.

Brown v. Board of Education meant that the University of Alabama had to be desegregated. In the years following, hundreds of African-Americans applied for admission, but all were denied. The University worked with police to find any disqualifying qualities, or when this failed, intimidated the applicants. But in 1963, three African-Americans with perfect qualifications—Vivian Malone Jones, Dave McGlathery and James Hood—applied, refusing to be intimidated. In early June a federal district judge ordered that they be admitted, and forbade Governor Wallace from interfering.

The incident

Vivian Malone Jones arrives to register for classes at the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium.

On June 11, Malone and Hood arrived to register. Wallace, attempting to uphold his promise as well as for political show, blocked the entrance to Foster Auditorium with the media watching. Then, flanked by federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach told Wallace to step aside.[5][1] However, Wallace cut Katzenbach off and refused, giving a speech on States' rights. Katzenbach called President John F. Kennedy, who federalized the Alabama National Guard. General Henry Graham then commanded Wallace to step aside, saying, "Sir, it is my sad duty to ask you to step aside under the orders of the President of the United States." Wallace then spoke further, but eventually moved, and Malone and Hood registered as students.

In film

The incident was detailed in Robert Drew's 1963 documentary film Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment. The event was depicted in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, in which the title character appeared at the event,[7][8][9] and in the 1997 television movie George Wallace.

See also

Timeline of the African-American Civil Rights Movement
Little Rock Nine


Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Stand in the Schoolhouse Door Speech

^ a b Elliot, Debbie. Wallace in the Schoolhouse Door. NPR. June 11, 2003. Accessed February 19, 2009.

^ Governor George C. Wallace's School House Door Speech. Accessed February 19, 2009.

^ "Address on Civil Rights". Miller Center of Public Affairs. June 11, 1963. Retrieved 2013-02-07. "This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama."

^ a b c Standing In the Schoolhouse Door (June). Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. Accessed February 19, 2009

^ Andrew Cohen (May 9, 2012). "Nicholas Katzenbach, Unsung Hero of America's Desegregation". Theatlantic.com.

^ Lesher, Stephan (1995). George Wallace: American Populist. Da Capo Press. p. 233. ISBN 0-201-40798-1, 9780201407983 Check |isbn= value (help).

^ Byers, Thomas (1996). "History Re-Membered: Forrest Gump, Postfeminist Masculinity, and the Burial of the Counterculture". Modern Fiction Studies 42.2: 419–44. Retrieved 2009-02-28.

^ Paul Grainge (2003). Memory and Popular Film. Manchester University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-7190-6375-6. Retrieved February 28, 2009.

^ Behind the Magic of Forrest Gump: "George Wallace." in Forrest Gump special collector's edition (DVD). 2001.
External links[edit]

Sarah Melton, "A Sleight of History: University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium", Southern Spaces, October 15, 2009.
JFK Address on Civil Rights (June 11, 1963)

The Crimson-white (University of Alabama student newspaper), June 9, 1963 and June 13, 1963, W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library.