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tv   George Wallace Segregation and Politics  CSPAN  August 12, 2016 10:48pm-12:18am EDT

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schoolhouse door. so what you see here is a mathematics student and employed at nasa who's working into this opened doors to des-segregate te university. >> it is a dark contrast between what happened just a few days before before. >> he sorts of move on the national political spears. >> i am pleased to announce this morning that more than 100,000 californians have registered of the party in order to give us a system and dealing in the place
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of the california ballot in next year's general election. >> george wallace made his first run in national politics in 1964 where he enters a few key primaries and does well there. his first major national run comes in 1968. where he has set himself up through these public appearances that he makes during the desegregation of aids and during the stand-in schoolhouse. he sets himself up to be his voice and standing against all of these changes that the federal government is making. he takes what he's been making and he broadens it for a national audience.
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and that's a debate that really resonates with a lot of pop feeling their concerns have not been heard and feeling they are living in a know, the federal government is moving too fast with their decisions and feel like their voices aren't being heard. so george wallace, in 1968, sets himself up as a very successful candidate for president. he wins five southern states, and receives over 10 million votes. so he really speaks to a minority that a lot of politicians doesn't realize was out there, that was willing to vote. and so he runs again in 1972, and makes a good showing. but unfortunately what happens in may 15th, 1972, he's speaking at a campaign stop in laurel, maryland, when a man named
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arthur rimer fires five shots and paralyzes governor wallace. the items that you see here were actually the items that george wallace was carrying in the -- in his pockets on the day he was shot. and what is really remarkable about these is, you know, it really humanizes wallace because these are items that we would have in our pockets or purses, you know, today. it is so simple. he's always carrying around a pack of cinnamon gum, has his chapstick, and his book of matches from one of the hotels he's picked up. what happens after the shooting in wallace's political career is that, you know, he has this moment where he's in constant pain, he's coming to the realization that he's never going to walk again, but he still is very interested in running and campaigning. so he makes one more presidential run in 1976, which is very short lived and very unsuccessful, and a lot of the
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reason of that is because people have questions about whether he's physically capable of serving as president. and then after the '76 campaign ends in defeat, he moved back to alabama and starts making a run for governor again. and because he's in constant pain, and because he's dealing with the realities of his life now, he becomes reflective on all of the political events that had happened before that. and so in the 1970s, you start seeing him calling up, you know, the african-americans he feels like he's wronged and asking for, you know, forgiveness. and you see him in his last gubernatorial campaign in 1982 making a very emotional reach out to the african-american community, asking for forgiveness and asking for a chance to redeem his political career. george wallace lived for several more years after he retired from
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politics, but he was in constant pain and had very poor physical health. he finally died in 1998. you know, alabama and really the nation is still trying to come to terms with the legacy of george wallace, because you know, as a national politician, even though george wallace was never elected, his presidential campaigns are really influential and they changed, you know, the conservative movement, and they changed the way that future politicians phrased certain debates. so you see after wallace a greater focus on especially republican candidates talking about federal government and federal abuse of power and the fear that the federal government has gotten too large and are making large changes. you know, and they couch it in language that is very similar to what governor wallace is using. it's still a debate that's going on today in national politics.
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but in the state itself, you know, we're dealt with the two wallaces. we have the wallace that, you know, supported improvements to public education. we have technical colleges all across the state that bear the names of george wallace and marlene wallace, who educated generations of students. you know, and so that stands to his legacy as someone that was interested in the needs of alabama's people. but we're also still dealing with that very painful legacy of segregationist rhetoric. and i think one of the most wonderful examples of that is actually some of the speeches that george wallace's family have made recently. so what you're looking at now is a speech that was given by peggy wallace kennedy in montgomery, alabama. this is a speech that was given in 2015, the day after the
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bloody sunday, 50th anniversary celebration was held in selma. she's speaking to a group of congressmen coming down with john lewis to speak with her. i think one of the most powerful parts of this speech is the moment where she directly addresses congressman john lewis. and she says, you know, she talks about this moment in march 2009 where they walk across the bridge together and they hold hands. and she realizes this is such a wonderful gift that she's been given to be able to have this moment with john lewis, where they have moved beyond the pains of the past and they're looking towards the alabama of the future. and in the final line of her speech, she says but today as george wallace's daughter and as a person of my own, i want to do for you what my father should have done and recognize you for your humanity and for your dignity as a child of god, as a
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person of good will and character, and as a fellow alabaman. and say welcome home. our contender series continues on saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. learn about george mcgovn who was the presidential candidate in 1972. and sunday night it is a look at the life and legacy of texas businessman ross per row who hahn as an independent dand kate in 1992 and 1996 presidential election. american history tv tells through historic locations. this month american history tv is on prime time. our features include lectures in
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history, visits to college campuses across the country to hear lectures, american artifacts looks at the treasures. real america revealing the 20th century through ar chi value news. the civil war where you hear about the people that shaped the krifrlg war. and the presidency focuses on u.s. presidents and first ladies. learn about their legacies. all this month in prime time and every weekend on american history tv on c-span 3. >> when george wallace was governor of alabama during the 1960s, he fiercely supported segregation in his state. famously standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent the enrollment of black students at the university of alabama. governor wallace later retracted these views and he apologized for his segregationist policies. in this program, historians dan carter, glenn eskew and angela lewis discuss the life and legacy of george wallace.
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they look at whether political concerns or racism motivated him to oppose integration. this event took place at the birmingham public library in birmingham, alabama. it's about 90 minutes. >> in birmingham, they loved the governor. this line from lynyrd skynyrd's 1974 home "sweet home alabama" may be one of the most debated lines from one of the most debated songs in american music. george wallace was so taken with the song when he first heard it that he planned to issue a special gubernatorial citation to lynyrd skynyrd. but then one of the governor's aides suggest he listen more closely to the line that follows "in birmingham they love the governor." the next line -- anybody remember?
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"boo, boo, boo." sung by a group of female african-american backup singers. including, by the way, the great mary clayton who originated the role of the acid queen in the who's "tommy." that has nothing to do with what we're talking about tonight. i just think that's a cool fact. so ronny and the boys never got their citation from the governor. we have chosen this line as the title for our program tonight because it is like the legacy of george wallace debated, parsed, and still relevant in the 21st century america. we are fortunate to have three respected and accomplished scholars with us tonight to explore the role of george wallace in birmingham civil rights struggle and the legacy of wallace in our politics and culture today. our first speaker will be dan t. carter.
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he has served as professor and visiting scholar at emory university, university of maryland, university of wisconsin, london's westminster university, cambridge university, university of genoa and the university of south carolina. his book, "scottsboro" won the bancroft prize and the smith book award. he is the author of the highly regarded biography "the politics of rage: george wallace, the origins of the new conservatism and the transformation of american politics." our second speaker will be dr. glenn eskew. he is professor of history at georgia state university. birmingham native. he is author of the book "but for birmingham: the local and national movements in the civil rights struggle," which received the frances butler simkins prize
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at the southern historical association, and he is author of the forthcoming book "johnny mercer: southern songwriter for the world." for the past several years, dr. eskew has served as lecturer and faculty director for annual neh funded summer teacher workshops on teaching the history of the civil rights movement. our final speaker this evening will be dr. angela k. lewis, professor of political science in the department of government at the university of alabama at birmingham. she is author of the new book "conservatism in the black community, to the right and misunderstood." and awards will be forthcoming. also a native of birmingham, dr. lewis is a regular political analyst for cox radio and alabama public radio and works with the organization alabama citizens for constitutional reform. please join me in welcoming dr. dan carter.
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>> thank you very much, jim. i'm sure most of you here are aware of what an extraordinary resource and the rare one is the birmingham public library and the archives here. unfortunately, libraries across the country are losing the kind of resources to local history and for national history, and we're fortunate to have such an extraordinary facility here in birmingham. i hope you're proud of it. you should be. when i sat down to write a biography of george wallace, i was taken with the words of the english biographer james basel as he wrote to his friend samuel johnson. men's hearts are concealed, he
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said, but their actions are open to scrutiny. i still believe that. we can never know with certainty the inner thoughts, the feelings of individuals, but i do think we can infer motivation from action. and so i'd like to talk briefly about the role of george wallace and the events that stretched from january of 1963 through the 16th street bombing. what george wallace did and why he acted as he did. i hope these brief reflections will tell us something about him and about the larger story of that critical year in the history of birmingham and the history of our nation. as all of us well know, george wallace began the year in 1963 with his inaugural address in which he promised segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. and at the same time, reaffirmed
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his campaign commitment to stand in the schoolhouse door to resist federally mandated integration. wallace was no novice when it came to managing the media as he began his governorship. but he was most focused on his forthcoming confrontation to the kennedy administration over his promise to stand in the schoolhouse door. this was an event that he could control, and he did so with extraordinary skill. in part, because it was always, for governor wallace, a political chess match that gave him a kind of distance, i think, emotionally from what was going on. privately, he concluded that it would be a mistake to let events slip out of control and lead to a repeat of the riots and bloodshed of ole miss the previous fall. and so he used his close
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contacts with the klan and other violent groups to persuade them to fall back and let him take the lead. but to use a cliche, he kept his cards close to his chest. only his very closest advisers knew his plans. and publicly, he kept a frustrated robert and john kennedy guessing about what he might do, even hinting at times that he would support armed resistance to desegregation. nevertheless, while the negotiations were stilted and frustrating to the president and attorney general robert kennedy, whatever wallace and his close supporters said privately, they were scrupulously polite in public comments. meeting with attorney general kennedy in may of 1963, i've heard the tape of that meeting, and it was contentious, often angry, intense, but as soon as they stepped outside for a press
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conference, the governor was the very soul of graciousness, explaining how he had welcomed the attorney general to alabama, the hospitality state, and he was always welcome back. for george wallace, it was great fun. like a high-level poker game in which he ultimately held the high cards as he carefully choreographed the upcoming confrontation. governor wallace did not anticipate and, in fact, was initially surprised by the boycott and demonstrations that rocked birmingham beginning that april. he was even more surprised by their growing intensity in a worldwide publicity they engendered. and birmingham was quite different to stand in the schoolhouse door. not least because governor wallace was never the ringmaster. martin luther king, greg
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shuttlesworth, wyatt t. walker, james bell and other black activists set the agenda, and alabama state and birmingham city officials could only react. that does not mean that the governor was aloof from events. he, in fact, followed those very closely. he was personally and almost daily contact with mayor art hanes and his later successor, disputed successor, the slightly more moderate. and his constantly issued statements were hardly marked by public respect. when the so-called children's crusade began, thousands of young black birmingham youth poured into the streets. the governor went before the legislature in a special address, after repeating his promise to stand in the schoolhouse door, the bulk of his remarks interrupted 21 times by ovation, three times by
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standing ovations, the bulk of his remarks were devoted to bitter attacks upon the birmingham demonstrators who he described at various points as agitators, integrators, integrationists, communists who were intent on destroying the freedom and liberty of americans everywhere. make no mistake, he told the cheering lawmakers, it was the communists who were in charge. everyone knew the demonstrations were communist-inspired and communist-led. if any deaths occurred, he said through a standing ovation, he would urge jefferson county grand jury to indict the demonstration leaders for murder. equally critical was the governor's unqualified support for outgoing mayor hanes who had called the white businessmen involved in negotiating with the demonstrators a bunch of quisling, gutless traitors and publicly expressed his agreement
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with the mayor's assessment and added the so-called biracial negotiating group of appeasers have no business meeting with mobsters like martin luther king, let alone presuming to negotiate any kind of settlement. and of course there was carter who he also supported without equivocation. the same bull connor he told ahead of time there was going to be a bombing at the gaston motel where martin luther king was staying responded, let them blow him up. he was not, he said, pardon my language, going to protect that nigger s.o.b., and he didn't use the abbreviation for s.o.b. governor wallace used every possible opportunity to support the most recalcitrant forces in birmingham. the dramatic contrast in how
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governor wallace dealt with the kennedy administration, in his words and actions towards the demonstrations, it's not really that hard to explain. part of it's simply a matter of quite different politics of the two situations. for the most part, he was, as i said the ringmaster of the confrontation of the kennedys and knew the last thing that the president, his brother wanted was a repeat of ole miss. that gave him all the leverage he needed to lay out what became ultimately the stand in the schoolhouse door, but as i said he had no control over events in birmingham. as he confronted thousands of young people willing to put their bodies on the line. now, he continued in talking about the demonstrations, he continued the same reverence in the months leading up to the 16th street bombing, i think
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urging violence, supporting groups which attempted to prevent the integration of birmingham schools, and publicly, and i do mean publicly, embracing some of the most repellant individuals in the bestiary of violent southern resistance, including neo-nazis, who he specifically made a point of supporting. and i can't help but keep thinking of his comments just four days before the bombing when he told a reporter, this society is coming apart at the seams. what this country needs is a few first-class funerals. or his private comments afterwards in which he suggested the followers of the bombing might well have been the work of blacks intent on provoking violence or sabotage of the original case against the bombers, making it much more difficult for the fbi to bring charges against them.
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now this was the same george wallace who had served diligently on the tuskegee university board of trustees in the early 1950s, the same george wallace who had been the first judge in alabama using courtesy titles in referring to black attorneys and clients in his court, the same george wallace who unsuccessfully sought the governorship in 1958 by attacking the ku klux klan and promising his followers to treat everyone with equal justice without regard for race. of course, in part it was simply submission to the political winds of racism. having lost in 1958 he famously complained that his opponent, i think it also reflects something more, a deep and authentic anger
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over the assertiveness of black southerners. in that sense, george wallace's anger and his lack of any kind of balance reflects that of whites of moderate positions. they were willing to move, and george wallace had shown early he was toward some kind of more just society but always at their pace. i was a reporter in the late 1950s and even before the events in birmingham i can still recall the sense of hurt and betrayal by white moderates who felt they were trying to do the right thing but negros who should be grateful, they just wouldn't wait. they wouldn't let them set the timetable. if they were frustrated, most whites, even whites who considered themselves people of good will, were furious. these people should be grateful
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to us. instead, they're sabotaging them. it's fascinating to read the transcript of a meeting of prominent birmingham business community with president kennedy in may of 1963 in which he tries to reprimand them to get them to do something, and they just light into him. you don't understand, we're the moderates, we're the liberals, and we can't let these demonstrators set the terms of the settlement. it was a sense of betrayal. george wallace, in 1963, was running for king of alabama, his presidential aspirations come shortly afterwards. all of this made him enormously popular in the state. and events from 1963 onward, the war in vietnam, the anti-war movement, what we might call the rise of the counterculture,
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pornography, sex, all of these things, along with the race riots of the 1960s, fight of the 1960s, suddenly transformed george wallace into a national figure. and he ended up, of course, running an extraordinarily successful, not finally but ultimately given his background, extraordinary campaign in 1968 in which at one point 28% of the american people said they supported george wallace for president. nevertheless, he was always limited of what happened in 1963. no one could ever erase from their minds his actions, his words, and the events of 1963. it always placed a cap on what he -- in what he could accomplish as a national politician. so i do think, in many ways, what george wallace did, what he
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said, how he felt, accurately, as it often did, reflected the views of most white house venues and that's a tragedy, of course. maybe not that fervently, but it was there. so now we sit, 50 years later, what should we remember about these events? i've tried to suggest that these parochial happenings which seemed to mark the triumph of the civil rights movement also led to the rise of a reaction that continues until today. last year the professions commitment to presenting the story of our past as truthfully as possible, but i also share the view of the russian novelist leo tolstoy. history worth writing or reading should ultimately lead to some form of moral reflection. at its best, conversation with the past can do more than inform us about what people have said
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and done. it can help us think about how we should do. and as i've grown older, that's a point of view that has grown stronger. so what do we learn? in answering that question everyone must be their own historian. i can only give you my point of view. and to me, among the many threads that reach backwards beyond 1963 and far until the day when one keeps recurring, and that is the tendency, even the need to divide ourselves between us and them, the worthy and the unworthy. it takes many more. race was more predominant in the 1960s, but there's a darker part of our nation's history. the tendency to mark out, not only african-americans, but others and somehow unworthy of human dignity and worth. native americans, jews,
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catholics, immigrants, homosexuals, this morning my wife and i were driving over from atlanta and we were in that blank space between atlanta and birmingham, and we turned on the radio. and we started listening to christian radio. and i was literally sick to my stomach as this commentator goes on about the muslims. you know, the president is supporting the muslims. the president implicitly is a muslim. the indication being these are people that are horrible. and somehow he should be expelled from america, certainly controlled. and the poor and the isolated as well. at times i wonder what has happened. what has happened. the mobilization of black and white americans in birmingham
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evolved in far more than the struggle to buy a hot dog at a lunch counter, even to cast a vote. those who shaped the fight for civil rights beginning in the 1930s used the term beloved community without the italics of irony. however naive that may seem in retrospect, they held up the illusion of america committed to genuine opportunity for those who lived in an iron cage of poverty and social isolation. above all, the prop greats what seems to be our national compulsion as i said to divide ourselves between the true americans and the other. given that history, it is difficult to retain some remnant of opposition in a world of violence and a nation divided over the most fundamental levels. more and more the goals that inspired me in the 1960s seem
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like mirages in an endless desert of self-interest and greed in which we're contemptuous of the very notion of community, a community as i said dedicated to protecting the worth and dignity of every person. and then i remember an essay by johanna basing. a leading scholar of buddhism. in the 1980s she visited a group of tibetan monks that was destroyed by the chinese government. working with nothing but hand tools and wheelbarrows, they had just begun rebuilding their 1200-year-old monastery. their reconstruction was so limited for sources was overwhelming, and what if the chinese should simply return again with their bulldozers, she asked the monks? they shrugged. such calculations were conjecture to the monks. since you cannot see into the
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future, you simply proceed to put one stone on top of the other. and another on top of that. if the stones get knocked down, you begin again. because if you don't, nothing will ever get built. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you. good evening. i happen to be here on this panel to discuss the 50th anniversary of events in birmingham as they relate to governor wallace. i would like to thank jim baggett, the department of
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manuscripts and archives for making this possible. the story of birmingham's spring 1963 civil rights demonstrations is well-known, but often overlooked as the role played by governor george c. wallace during the protests. alabama's most famous and powerful segregationists did not sit idly by why the world watched the non-violent activists confronting brutality in the city streets. he intervened and determined to upstage the drama in tuscaloosa. yet even bigger actors waiting in the wings and ultimately stole the show. the origins of birmingham's modern civil rights movement dates to 1956 when the reverend shuttlesworth organized the christian movement the human rights in response to the state's running the national association for the advancement of colored people out of alabama over the montgomery bus boycott and the attempt to desegregate the university.
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his organization attracted a small but loyal group of deeply religious activists who firmly believed that god would help them end segregation. their fanaticism allowed them to wait down the attacks by white vigilantes. when the montgomery boycott case came about, the alabama christian movement demanded an end to practice on birmingham buses. in response, ku klux klansmen bombed a baptist church, the dynamite nearly killing the pastor and civil rights leader. shuttlesworth's survival became a sign of divine intervention. during the school desegregation crisis in little rock, arkansas, when the local movement attempted to register black students at all white phillips high school in 1957, a mob targeted shuttlesworth and
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nearly beat him to death. the alabama christian movement integrated their terminal train station in 1958, the airport in 1959, and tried to access whites-only parks in 1960s. when the freedom riders reached birmingham in may 1961, klansmen beat them with impunity. criticized for not providing police protection, the commissioner of public safety, eugene connor said his force was off for mother's day. into the breach stepped shuttlesworth whose movement rescued the stranded black and white activists. the national condemnation of birmingham following the freedom rides confirmed white businessmen linked to the business sector to turn against connor as fractures appeared in heavy industries, big consensus, led by a local realtor, these men advocated a change in government that ultimately removed connor from office in
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1963 but until then, bull ran birmingham. meanwhile, on the state level, the ku klux klan supported john patterson to not succeed himself in office and his former opponent, george c. wallace had been dismayed at losing four years before, promising never to be defeated again by running a rabidly racist campaign with full klan endorsement, wallace won alabama's highest office. in his january 1963 inaugural address written by asa carter, he thanked the klan by promising segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. a not-so subtle paraphrase of the klan's motto. city and state government aligned in its defense of white supremacy. in washington the president had just been burned by the outcome of such fire-eating rhetoric. when kennedy entered office he inherited from the eisenhower administration a policy of
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federalism that restrained federal government in its relations with state and local officials. while his predecessor defended school desegregation in little rock, such action derived from enforcing court rulings in the face of massive resistance. thus with the freedom rides the kennedy administration referred to local authorities, not to protect civil liberties but to end the violence. when implemented court ordered desegregation at the university of mississippi in the fall of 1962, however, a mob intent on maintaining white supremacy ambushed federal authorities. following eisenhower's lead in little rock, he sent troops to oxford to secure the admission of james meredith, but they quickly withdrew behind the passive policy of federalism. frustrated by this slow pace of change, shuttlesworth invited to birmingham king in the southern leadership conference to join the alabama christian movement and demonstrations. not having a success since the
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montgomery bus boycott and suffering a setback in south georgia, king needed a victory to make it viable. the two groups determined not to follow albany's strategy of filling the jail, but instead to target the merchants with sit-ins, picket signs and a boycott so they might convince the city to repeal the segregation ordinances. on april 3, 1963, the birmingham campaign began when 20 black men and women asked for service at lunch counters around the business district. led by shuttlesworth lieutenants, calvin woods, these movement members drew on their deep faith that god would protect them in the struggle for race reform. police arrested the protesters as bull connor demonstrated his commitment to white supremacy. at a mass meeting that night, shuttlesworth and king announced other demonstrations would follow. the first protest march occurred on april 6 when shuttlesworth
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led demonstrators to city hall to answer a previously denied parade permit be issued. itching to expand the protest, a local activist deviated from the type of focus on sit-ins that supported a selective buying campaign in order to generate community interest in the demonstrations. police stepped in and arrested the 43 activists. on april 7th king's brother headed a column of two dozen out of churches and into streets lined with african-americans. the arrest of the marchers promoted civic unrest among the black bystanders who while not members of the movement nevertheless identified with the desire for race reform. to control the crowds, officers called up the canine corps. when the black youth flashed a knife at a police dog, the german shepherd attacked pinning the young man to the ground, swinging billy clubs and sicking the dogs, officers dispersed the crowd. the national press reported police brutality.
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king capitalized on such creative tension by staging future episodes after black bystanders had gathered, but ending them in time for national film crews to get their footage on the plane to new york for the night's evening news as birmingham became a media event. to stymie the movement, connor received a ruling restraining king and shuttlesworth from leading protest marches. the sclc's decision to obey the georgia injunction had ended the albany campaign. and birmingham, the movement defied the state court order. dressed in the blue denim of the working man, king, shuttlesworth and reverend ralph abernathy led 50 people past hundreds of onlookers on april 12th. law enforcement officials ushered the integrationists into patty wagons, king's arrest focused attention on birmingham. when asked in washington, president kennedy claimed via
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federalism he had no legal authority to intervene. while national interest grew during king's eight-day incarceration, local support waned. the two weeks had tapped the human and financial resources of the alabama christian movement. once bailed out king found birmingham campaign on the brink of collapse as only a handful of adults volunteered to demonstrate. yet since the beginning of the mass meetings, young people had gathered in the fellowship halls for special youth activities led king's lieutenants dorothy cotton and james bevel and ike reynolds who suggested that students march. king acquiesced out of desperation to generate creative attention to keep media focused on birmingham. the children's crusade began on may 2nd as hundreds of black students skipped school, gathered in movement centers and embarked on protest marches. wave after wave the girls washed
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down the tile steps of the 16th street baptist church into the park. the youngsters took connor by surprise, but by the end of the day, police had crowded 500 black teenagers in the cramped jail cells. at the night's mass meeting, king promised that more marches would happen if the city refused to desegregate. the next morning, may 3rd, connor responded with a show of force. he stationed water cannon around the park and sealed off the black business district from downtown. attack dogs strained on their leashes intimidating many black bystanders while other onlookers taunted the officers. when the black youth exited the church, connor hollered, let them have it, as water gushed out of the fire hoses, blasting blindly at males and females. spinning students down the sidewalk and tearing the bark off trees. i want to see the dogs work, barked bull, as the german shepherds lunged at the black
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crowd, ripping at their clothes in search of flesh. police arrested 700 people as journalists captured the horrifying spectacle on film. the hoses and the dogs elevated bull's birmingham into a national symbol of racial oppression. the event provided the lead story for newspapers and radio broadcasts around the world just as the footage of the brutal suppression played on nbc, abc, cbs and global television networks. consequently on saturday, may 4th, president kennedy identified birmingham as a matter of national and international concern. the media analysis coming in from domestic and foreign service suddenly pointed to an american racial crisis to end the protests and negative publicity, kennedy sent assistant attorney general for civil rights kurt marshall to birmingham.
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unrestrained connor rounded another demonstration saturday afternoon by using fire hoses to pin protesters in the youth movement centers. rather than march on sunday, civil rights activists held kneel-ins at white churches. school children resumed protest marches on monday, may 6th, but connor refrained from using force as they put them on school buses rendered to jail. classrooms emptied into the streets as police arrested more than a thousand black youth. the city turned the stockade at the state fairground into a holding pen. for in birmingham the movement accomplished what it had failed to do in albany. filled the jail. movement strategists called may 7th double d day as they coordinated a nonviolent large demonstration designed to shut the city down. for weeks connor had kept the protests confined to a black area, but the foot soldiers and
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the nonviolent army bypassed his barricades as dozens of picket signs appeared at the major department stores on 19th street. hundreds of african-americans milled about the office buildings on 20th street as thousands more occupied first avenue flowing down 21st street stopping traffic. some knelt in prayer. in birmingham, civil order collapsed. a group of white businessmen exited the chamber of commerce building into the bedlam below, only to reconvene and call for negotiations to end the demonstrations. meanwhile, connor, insisted he has been out maneuvered reverts to violence. they repulsed the schoolchildren as they exited the baptist church. a battle broke out between the firemen blasting away blindly with the water and the nonviolent protesters in kelly ingram park. in montgomery governor wallace condemned the non-violent
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activists in his opening address before the alabama legislature. the confrontational former judge said he was tired of the lawlessness of birmingham and whatever will be done to break it up to restore law and order while sending his new state commissioner of public safety colonel al lingo and his police force, the alabama highway patrol, to birmingham. state troopers dressed in military-style uniforms with steel helmets and confederate battle flags and bearing sawed off shotguns and machine guns, these law enforcement officers answered only to wallace through lingo. while 250 arrived tuesday afternoon, the governor sent over 600 to the city. these men joined conner's police and firemen in patrolling downtown. temperatures topped 90 degrees as angry black bystanders awaited a protest on wednesday. an army of heavily armed hostile
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law enforcement officers surrounded them, but rather than march on may 8, movement leaders embraced the moratorium designed to allow negotiations to proceed. over a tense three days, smire and other white businessmen assisted by burt marshall reached a settlement with king and his lieutenants to consider demands for equal employment and desegregation. disliking the ambiguous terms, reverend shuttlesworth insisted on the threat of continued demonstrations, but then on friday afternoon, may 10th, joined civil rights leaders in the courtyard press conference announcing the truce. that night after a planned rally, vigilantes dynamited the hotel and king's brother's house in an effort to assassinate the civil rights leader. the explosions set off a firestorm as they raged after african-americans rioted. they punctured the tires of
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police cars and set them ablaze hollering, kill him, at officers. others torched light properties in the 28th block surrounding the gaston motel, but the winds spread the sparks to black homes, as the flames swirled around like a glass furnace. shoot to kill the wallace ordered the state troopers who stormed into the area to break up the rioters, chasing people onto porches and into tenements beating them with billy clubs. finally, as incendiary as the violence, birmingham's chief of police, james moore, pleaded with the troopers, we don't need any guns down here. you might get somebody killed. you might get somebody killed. lingo's slap was automatic, you're damn right it will kill somebody. by dawn the fires left a smoldering ruin. responding to the destruction of property, the president mobilized the armed forces, sending soldiers from ft. bragg to montgomery and to be on
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standby. he urged birmingham citizens to accept the negotiated accord and make outside military intervention unnecessary. while smire convinced kennedy not to declare martial law, they chaffed by it represented by the federal occupation. yet civil orders had spread beyond birmingham. the initial rallies of support in los angeles and new york in april 1963 had spawned some 750 demonstrations in nearly 200 cities with the arrests of more than 15,000 protesters across the country. suddenly, a black rebellion was at hand. the kennedy administration was caught off guard. rather than the civil rights activists in birmingham, the president was more concerned with the actions of alabama's feisty governor who had pledged to stand in the schoolhouse door to stop the federal courts from
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desegregating state schools. kennedy feared another ole miss and focused his attentions on wallace rather than king. attorney general robert kennedy compiled the alabama notebook that documented the state's corporate ceos to get them to pressure the governor to cool off. but having been elected to defend segregation, wallace wanted to heat things up. so he stole the scene away from birmingham by staging an elaborate charade in tuscaloosa. on june 11th, 1963, he blocked the entrance of foster auditorium to prevent african-american students from entering the university of alabama. the governor choreographed an elaborate dance as washington served the court orders and the national guard forced him to stand aside. wallace's behavior, however, came off looking like a victory for resistance to federal authority. despite kennedy's success implementation of the desegregation ruling.
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the president had had enough. as burt marshall recognized the threads ran through the events in tuscaloosa tying them back to birmingham. on june 11, 1963, in a global broadcast of television and radio, kennedy said, today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. it ought to be possible, therefore, for american students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops. birmingham exposed the problems the nation can no longer prudently ignore. for it revealed the fires and frustration of discord burning in every city, north and south, where legal remedies are not at hand, redress is sought in the streets and demonstrations, parade and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.
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to stop the confrontations and negative publicity, kennedy called for sweeping legislation. eight days later on june 19th he sent to congress his revolutionary civil rights bill of 1963 that harkened back to reconstruction by setting forth legal reforms designed to achieve implementation of the 14th and 15th amendments to the u.s. constitution and the civil rights act of 1875. to outlaw racial discrimination, the federal government would enforce compliance with the new laws by regulating the state commerce and withholding federal funds. the omnibus bill had eight provisions that promoted voting rights in school desegregation, federally assisted programs, extended the life of the civil rights commission, and advocated equal employment opportunities. capitalizing on the success of birmingham, civil rights leaders staged a protest march on washington. king's "i have a dream" speech
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fit the demands of kennedy's legislation for the reasonable race reform like birmingham's jail while concluding with the resounding proclamation of faith in the american system. indeed, the march on washington underscored the centrality at this of birmingham as the watershed moment marking a new federal commitment to end over 300 years of legal racial discrimination in america. a short two weeks into this emotional high, birmingham brought the nation crashing back down. rulings from the federal courts resulted in desegregation of several state schools. governor wallace led the massive resistance, using colonel lingo and his troopers to prevent black students from entering the schools as white supremacist rhetoric resounded across alabama. focusing racial hatred. although wallace had stood up to kennedy, he did not sop the
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desegregation of the university. and he could not prevent the desegregation of the elementary schools when the federal government intervened. so in birmingham they took measures into their own hands. they set a bomb at the 16th street baptist church on september 15th, 1963, taking the lives of four young girls getting ready to participate in the service. in the shocked outrage that followed that day, two other black boys were shot dead in birmingham. the heinous nature of these six murders underscored the depths of depravity of those willing to keep white supremacy. while the kennedy administration had proposed sweeping race reforms with the civil rights bill of 1963, by the fall a less than aggressive president seeking re-election and afraid
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of losing the votes of white southerners stood by segregationists and congress stalled his proposal. the november 1963 assassination of president kennedy in dallas renewed the calls for action. now the unexpected president lyndon b. johnson pushed the legislation as a tribute to the martyred leader. quote, no memorial or racial eulogy could more eloquently honor president kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long. we've talked long enough in this country about equal rights, johnson said. it is time now to write them in the books of law. having spent his career on capitol hill, the tough texan called in the chips, cut deals and faced down the filibuster of southern senators, thereby pushing the legislation through both houses.
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the civil rights act of 1964 not only opened the american system to african-americans, but to all religious minorities, women, and in time gays, lesbians and the handicapped. thus the climax of the movement occurred in the streets of birmingham. the violence of the civil rights activists there generated such outrage locally, nationally and globally that the president could no longer hide behind a bankrupt policy of federalism. the trace of wallace helped push kennedy into action, never conceived by segregationists in the south. so the governor's response to the lawlessness in birmingham contributed to the new civil rights laws. with a matter of race reform for thrust upon the national stage, presence stole the show. they changed the scene from the hoses, dogs and schoolhouse doors and rewrote the ending in order to promise equality for all.
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thank you. [ applause ] hello. thank you for inviting me this evening. and thank you to the public birmingham library. before i get started i wanted to start by saying that i am going to attempt to recount wallace's life within the context of black politics. um, in the last chapter of my book i begin by making your quote, from william clay. he stated in 1992 that black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interest.
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he stated this because within the context of the american political system, black people have shifted from the republican party to the democratic party. one would not be able to examine george wallace without examining it in the context of clay's statement. that is the motto of the congressional black caucus, also. that is, the black community has no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interest. so, a few things are clear about the life and legacy of george wallace. first he had political ambition. he wanted power. it was very clear that he wanted power. someone that started out as a populist, a liberal, some would describe as a socialist in his legislative career. turned out to be a segregationist. now, although he turned out to be a segregationist later in life, he apologized for his views.
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he asked people to forgive him. he admitted that he was wrong. one of the things that's really surprising about george wallace's life and his political career is the amount of support he received from the black community in the 1982 election. people described this support as overwhelming. about 90% of the black population voted for george wallace in the 1982 election. i will contend, however, that this level of support is not surprising if one understands the history of black political behavior in this country. let me begin by starting out at the beginning of george wallace's political career. of course, he went to the university of alabama. he ran for political office there in the sga. eventually he ran for the state legislature. he won. he was in office from 1947 to 1953. as i previously stated, he was known as a very liberal legislator. some people would say he's a
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socialist. he had a progressive agenda. some of his policy positions included support for trade schools, community colleges, and he also supported manufacturing jobs moving to the state of alabama. one thing that's important to remember and think about in the context of these policy positions of george wallace is very similar to someone who is very famous in the black community, that is booker t. washington. in order to understand the link between george wallace, his policy positions and the support for the black community that came later, you must also understand who booker t. washington was. he was an accommodationist, as some would call him. some say he was an uncle tom. the reason they say that is because in 1985 he made an address called the atlanta compromise. in this particular speech, he stated that in all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as the fingers yet one as the hand and all things essential to mutual progress.
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so in essence, what booker t. washington was saying was that it was okay for blacks and whites to live separate. it was completely okay. as long as we came together to progress human society, it was okay for us to live separate. as i previously stated, booker t. washington was described as a an accommodationist to some and also uncle tom. he was one of the first african-americans actually invited to the white house to have a meal with the sitting president. and to understand the connection between wallace and the black community, wallace was very supportive of trade schools and community college. so there's a link there between wallace and the black community, even as early as his legislative career. although these positions were not overtly in support of the black agenda, they were indirectly supportive of improving black life in america, similar to the new deal and frederick roosevelt, i'm sorry. later in his time in office, he actually supported governor jim folsom, who was pretty liberal.
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he was supportive of poor people, whether they were black or white. and george wallace also supported jim folsom. although he didn't come out and support -- what am i trying to say? although he didn't support directly enfranchising the black community, he did support a candidate who did that. by 1949 george wallace was appointed to the board of trustees at tuskegee institute, which is a historically black college. again, you see the link here between george wallace the black community and booker t. washington. booker t. washington was the leader of tuskegee institute. it was founded by booker t. washington, and wallace had a very productive career on the board of trustees at a historically black college. one would say how could a segregationist who started out his career at a historically black college on the board of trustees end up where george
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wallace was at the schoolhouse door at the university of alabama? he went on to be a state judge in 1953. in this particular campaign he ran against the wealthy opponent, preston clayton. again, running as a judge, he was a populist. he encouraged military officers to vote for his opponent, but he encouraged privates in the military to vote for him. so this is evidence of him supporting the regular person, the common man, in this particular campaign for judge. by 1954, he supported jim folsom for governor. he was actually the director of his southern campaign in southern alabama. although he would eventually disagree with some of folsom's positions. by 1958 he ran for governor. and this was the election i was saying was the turning point in wallace's philosophy.
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in this particular election, he ran as a liberal, because he was considered a liberal, a socialist, actually, he wanted to help the poor. he was a progressive. he was for the underdog. he ran against john patterson, who was one of the candidates who had ties to the kkk. john patterson actually had funding from the kkk in this particular election. he was obviously a segregationist. he was against integration. george wallace actually spoke out against patterson receiving support from the kkk. he also refused funding from the kkk. eventually his refusal of support from the kkk ended up getting him an endorsement from the naacp. one has to understand that during that particular time, the naacp had been banned in the state of alabama. and his opponent, john patterson, was the one who was
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responsible for taking that case to court and banning the naacp. so here you have a guy, john patterson, who fought against the naacp, actually working in the state of alabama, versus george wallace who spoke out against the kkk and who refused to receive funding from the kkk. of course we all know that george wallace lost that election by a landslide. over 60,000 votes separated him and patterson. this was the turning point in his career. as one of my panelists previously stated, it was in this election afterwards that george wallace stated that he would not be out in work again. so during the course of that year after he lost the election, he developed a strategy to use race and segregation to his -- to his -- to his advantage. he also, in using race and segregation to his advantage, i would say manipulated middle class white voters who were
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somewhat disaffected from what was going on in american politics at the time. so if you fast forward to 1962, of course, after he developed, some would call that a southern strategy or the wallace strategy. he won the election in 1962. he won the election, he made promises to keep segregation in alabama no matter what. now what's interesting about this is that when i did research and looked at wallace's history, i couldn't find where early in his career he was an adamant segregationist. obviously, the loss of this election in 1958 kind of contributed to him changing his political philosophy. and so in -- he lost the 1958. in 1959 he went back to his judgeship and he actually made a stand against the federal government as early as 1959
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while he was a judge. in this particular year, the federal government had requested some documents for the county about voting records, and he refused to give them the records he even stated that anybody who would turn over the records, he would hold them in contempt. so this is like the beginning of his segregationist stand. then in 1962 he won the election and he used race as a way to win the election in 1962. he appealed to middle class whites. some would say his appeal was populist. he was working for the common man. however, i would say that he had a political purpose in mind. it was political manipulation. and the pursuit of power. he used middle class whites to get power. he used segregation, racism, white supremacy, to get power. he was elected to governor by a landslide in 1962. now, in 1962, we all know the
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famous words of his speech. segregation now, segregation today, segregation forever. his speech was written by a gentleman who turned into a novelist by the name of forest carter. he is credited with writing that famous speech and those famous words for george wallace. now some of the responses from the black community about george wallace's speech that year was that they say to hear the governor of a state get up and make the kind of comments that you would expect someone in a back alley with their sheets on and burning crosses would make. that was the thing that really caught us. our representative, john lewis, stated, my governor, this elected official, was saying in effect, you are not welcome, you are not welcome, in reference to blacks. our words can be powerful and they can be very dangerous.
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i would contend that even though george wallace never pulled a trigger, he never set fire to a church, he perpetuated that by his language and his rhetoric. he gave people the ammunition they needed to go out and commit those violent acts. some of the other things he did, he of course used the state patrol to his advantage and of course we talked about previously in 1963 he made the famous stand in the school house door at the university of alabama. now what is really interesting about wallace and his life is that two of the major events where he made a stand against the federal government, they were orchestrated. he had had conversations with the federal government behind the scenes and they allowed him to make those stands. so even though the federal government thought they were just giving this southern governor a little bit of power, made him look good. what actually happened was that he manipulated white voters into making them think he was actually a segregationist and a
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very adamant segregationist. but again, in looking at his life and some of his policies, one would have to wonder, was he really a segregationist? i don't know. i don't know his heart. but if you look at his policies, you wonder that. of course we talked about later that year in 1963 we had all of the acts of violence in birmingham, medgar evers was shot and murdered and dr. martin luther king made the speech in washington. by 1964 wallace entered the presidential race, and in this particular election he had a national audience. what do you call the people who -- or who supported wallace during these presidential campaigns wallace democrats, and they eventually became reagan democrats. so this flight from the democratic party to the republican party can be attributed to george wallace and his campaigns.
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by 1965 wallace was still in office and some of the policies that came out of his time in office as governor included increased salaries for teachers, he also supported increased education spending, spending on public health, good roads, and all of these were things that indirectly impacted and affected the black community.
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