50 Years Ago: Wallace's Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

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By Alabama News Network

It was 50 years ago that then-Gov. George Wallace staged his "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" to try to prevent black students from attending the University of Alabama.

Today, a racially integrated crowd will gather in Tuscaloosa to remember that landmark event of June 11, 1963. The university will hold a commemoration at Foster Auditorium, where Wallace faced down federal officials to oppose integration.

The event will honor Vivian Malone and James Hood, two black students who enrolled despite Wallace's actions. The program will include talks about the importance of the event and the university's progress since then.

Today the University of Alabama is about 13 percent black. A memorial plaza honoring the school's first minority students is now located at the site of Wallace's stand.

Gov. Wallace backed down from his stand when President John Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and ordered troops to Tuscaloosa.

Wallace's daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, said her family has lived in the shadow of the schoolhouse door ever since. She said her father never told her why he did it and she never asked him before he died in 1998. But she said she finally decided to emerge from the shadow in 2008, when she endorsed Barack Obama for president.

Since then, she has been involved in civil rights events in Alabama. She wants to give hope to people by showing that families can change.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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