University of Alabama

Published: 1963
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Alabama Governor, George Wallace, is seen here in June of 1963, when he blocked two black students from enrolling in the all-white University of Alabama. Wallace, whose political career was marked by resistance to racial integration, died September 13, 1998, at a Montgomery Hospital in Alabama. (UPI Photo/Files)

Hank Wilson: "The fire had been smoldering for 100 years, and 1963 will be remembered as the year in which the smoldering embers burst into flame."

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "We gonna moan together, we gonna groan together, and after a while we.. freedom, freedom! Freedom now!"

Hank Wilson: "This is Hank Wilson, reporting the story of the drive for equal rights during the past year.

"The demonstrations started in pleasant springtime weather. As early as April, Negros began demonstrating in Birmingham, Alabama.

"Birmingham, the city whose name was to be the standard bearer of the civil-rights struggle of 1963. Police managed to quash that early April demonstration in Birmingham; but Negro leaders warned that the fight had just begun, and by early May the integrationists were marching by the hundreds through the streets of Birmingham.

"By late afternoon on the 3rd of May, more than 500 demonstrators had been arrested in a period of less than 2 hours. By mid-May it was clear the impetus behind the demonstrations was enough to keep them going.

"In the first week of June, the civil-rights scene shifted abruptly from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where a Federal Court had ordered the University of Alabama to admit two Negro students for the first time in history. Alabama's fiercely segregationist Governor, George Wallace, vowed to stand in the door to prevent it. On Tuesday, June 11th, the students arrived on university grounds, and Governor Wallace was there face-to-face with a Justice Department official. But within five hours, the Alabama National Guard had been federalized, and it was all over.

"That night, in a nationwide broadcast, President Kennedy praised the students of Alabama University for their restraint."

President John F. Kennedy: "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 United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two fairly qualified, young Alabama residents, who happened to have been born Negro. That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way."