50th Anniversary of Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

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By Ashley Thompson

The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door was a pivotal time in Alabama's history where former Governor George Wallace tried to stop desegregation at the University of Alabama.

Civil Rights leaders and representatives from across the country came together at the university to remember that moment.

It was June 11, 1963. Two students, James hood and Vivian Malone showed up at Foster Auditorium to register for classes but were met by Governor George Wallace. After he ignored orders to step aside from federal officials, President John F. Kennedy demanded the Governor move from in front of the auditorium doors and allow the students in. Wallace's daughter Peggy Wallace Kennedy remembers that day and says it has followed her since.

"I was thirteen years old," she explains. "My mother was 36. In less than five years she would be dead, immortalized in myth and beloved by thousands. That day was the end of her hope for a simpler life. For it was the beginning of our living beneath the shadow of the school house door."

After Governor Wallace moved from the auditorium entrance, both Hood and Malone successfully registered for classes. Malone's sister Sharon tells us the incident wasn't discussed much in their home.

"You know, oddly enough she didn't speak of it a lot," says Malone. "I think that a lot of what happened at the university was painful. I think she put it behind her and moved on."

Peggy Wallace Kennedy says things were similar with her family after the confrontation.

"After nightfall, we rode in silence back to the Governors' mansion in Montgomery. The day was never mentioned again. It was as if it never happened."

Wallace says she wanted to speak at the university this year to tell others about her experience growing up in the shadow of that historic moment.

"This is the first time I've been back and of course, standing where he stood, it's strange in a way but I just needed to tell a story and that's how I felt standing there. That's what I wanted to say. A lot of people forget what the rest of the family was doing at that time."

And Malone says her sister also made peace with the university.

"Really a testament to her character was the lack of bitterness that she had about the University of Alabama because she and the faculty here reconciled and she became a beloved member of the community here," she says.

School officials tell us the preserved auditorium doors will move around campus, giving students the opportunity to see them first-hand and to learn more about their meaning.

 



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