Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
Part of the Civil Rights Movement

Attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, Governor of Alabama George Wallace stands at the door of Foster Auditorium while being confronted by US Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.
Date June 11, 1963
Location University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures


The White House

  • George Wallace (Governor of Alabama)

The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door took place at Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. George Wallace, the Democratic 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 and James Hood.[1]

The incident brought Wallace into the national spotlight.[2]


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 with one brief exception,[Note 1] 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 —Vivian Malone Jones, Dave McGlathery and James Hood—applied. In early June a federal district judge ordered that they be admitted,[3] and forbade Governor Wallace from interfering.[4]

The incident

General Henry Graham salutes and then confronts George Wallace.
Vivian Malone Jones arrives to register for classes at the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium.

On June 11, Malone and Hood pre-registered in the morning at the Birmingham courthouse. They selected their courses and filled out all their forms there. They arrived at Foster Auditorium to have their course loads reviewed by advisors and pay their fees. They remained in their vehicle as Wallace, attempting to uphold his promise as well as for political show,[4] 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.[1][5] However, Wallace interrupted Katzenbach and gave a speech on states' rights.[4][6] Katzenbach called President John F. Kennedy, who federalized the Alabama National Guard. Four hours later, Guard General Henry Graham 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 completed their registration.[7]

Cultural references

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,[8][9][10] and in the 1997 television movie George Wallace.

In June 2012, George Wallace, Jr. commented on his father's legacy, and mentioned the reference to the event in Bob Dylan's 1964 song "The Times They Are a-Changin'": "Come Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall." Wallace, Jr. said, when he was 14, he sang the song for his father and thought he saw the look of regret in his father's eyes.[11]

See also

Notes and references


  1. In February of 1956, Autherine Lucy started classes under guard at UA as a graduate student after having been admitted three years earlier. Her presence was met with riots, and the administration found excuses first to suspend, and then expel her shortly after she enrolled.


  1. 1 2 Elliot, Debbie. Wallace in the Schoolhouse Door. NPR. June 11, 2003. Accessed February 19, 2009.
  2. Democratic Governor George C. Wallace's School House Door Speech. Accessed February 19, 2009.
  3. "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.
  4. 1 2 3 Standing In the Schoolhouse Door (June). Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. Accessed February 19, 2009
  5. Andrew Cohen (May 9, 2012). "Nicholas Katzenbach, Unsung Hero of America's Desegregation".
  6. Wallace, George C. (12 December 2012). "Governor George C. Wallace's School House Door Speech". Alabama Department of Archives and History. Montgomery, Alabama. Archived from the original on 6 August 2002. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  7. Lesher, Stephan (1995). George Wallace: American Populist. Da Capo Press. p. 233. ISBN 9780201407983.
  8. Byers, Thomas (1996). "History Re-Membered: Forrest Gump, Postfeminist Masculinity, and the Burial of the Counterculture". Modern Fiction Studies. 42 (2): 419–44. doi:10.1353/mfs.1995.0102. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
  9. Paul Grainge (2003). Memory and Popular Film. Manchester University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-7190-6375-6. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  10. Behind the Magic of Forrest Gump: "George Wallace." in Forrest Gump special collector's edition (DVD). 2001.
  11. Grayson, Wayne (8 June 2012). "Son says former Gov. George Wallace repented for past". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
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