50 Years Later: UA Graduates Remember Meaning Behind The 'Stand In The Schoolhouse Door'


By Catalina Trivino

"The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" was a pivotal time in Alabama history when Governor George Wallace tried to stop black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama in 1963. Nearly five decades later, we ask graduates what they remember from that historical moment and how it's changed their lives...

It's a story Roslyn Cook has told her children dozens of times...

It's known as "The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door." It happened June 11, 1963 when Vivian Malone and James Hood set the stage for a very momentous year.

Malone and Hood were the first two black students to enroll at the University of Alabama in an attempt to desegregate it. A moment Cook says paved the way for thousands of black students, like her, to enroll at the university.

"I don't know in that magnitude if I would've been able to just stand there and take some of the abuse and some of the things they had to do," Said Roslyn. But as a freshman engineer student in 1977, she says it was still tough.

"I did get harassed because I was female, a black female in a predominantly white male area... but it was just something to go there and to persevere and to study and to graduate!" Said Roslyn.

Cook's sister, Diaon, also walked through the doors of the university just a decade after black students integrated into the school.

"I was in a lot of classes where I was either one of two or three or I was the only african american student in the classroom. At first i was a little uncomfortable," Said Diaon.

But the sisters aren't new to integratting into predominantly white schools. The Cook's were one of the first families to enter Butler County schools in the 1960's.

"And when I made a decision to go to college, that was certainly in the back of my mind. I knew that a lot of people had put in a lot of their lives and dedicated their time. I just didn't want to let them down," Said Diaon.

And she didn't. After graduating in 1978, Diaon became the first black professor at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College. Roslyn became a civil engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation. Both of them say it's all thanks to those who opened the doors for thousands to follow in their footsteps.

The University of Alabama plans to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of George Wallace's unsuccessful "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" this Tuesday with a program featuring speakers and musical performances.