Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

Coordinates: 33°12′29.2″N 87°32′38.4″W / 33.208111°N 87.544000°W / 33.208111; -87.544000
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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 U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.
DateJune 11, 1963
33°12′29.2″N 87°32′38.4″W / 33.208111°N 87.544000°W / 33.208111; -87.544000
Caused by
Resulted in
Lead figures


The White House

George Wallace, Governor

The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door took place at

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 as if to block the entry of the two African American students attempting to enter: Vivian Malone and James Hood.[1]

In response, President

federalized the Alabama National Guard, and Guard General Henry V. Graham then commanded Wallace to step aside.[2] Wallace spoke further, but eventually moved, and Malone and Hood completed their registration. The incident brought Wallace into the national spotlight.[3]


On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which held that the education of black children in separate public schools from their white counterparts violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Brown 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.[4] But, in 1963, three African-Americans—Vivian Malone Jones, Dave McGlathery and James Hood—applied. In early June federal district judge Seybourn H. Lynne ordered that they be admitted,[5] and forbade Governor Wallace from interfering, but did not grant the request that Wallace be barred from the campus.[6][7]

Wallace privately signaled to the Kennedy administration his intention to avoid fomenting violence, such as had occurred in the September 1962 Battle of Oxford with the desegregation of the University of Mississippi. The head of the Alabama State Police, Albert Lingo, who reported directly to Wallace, warned leaders of the Ku Klux Klan that their members would be arrested if they appeared in Tuscaloosa. Bull Connor, the chief of Birmingham Police, also told Klan members to spread word that Wallace wanted no crowds to gather in the town. And Wallace's speechwriter and top aide, Asa Carter, himself a top Klan official, personally visited Edward R. Fields, a leader of the National States' Rights Party, a white supremacist group, also to tell him to stay away from the event. But Wallace refused to talk directly to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy when he called to learn of Wallace's plans.[8]

On the eve of the incident, the U.S. Justice Department tried to discredit Wallace by leaking to a Newsday reporter the private health information that the Governor was receiving government payments related to a psychiatric disability suffered while flying in bombing missions over Japan during World War II. Wallace confirmed the disability, but Newsday editors refused to run the story.[9]


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. Kennedy administration officials, struggling with a potentially violent situation, considered simply bypassing Foster Auditorium and having Malone and Hood escorted directly to their dorm rooms. But given reports of an agitated Wallace, Robert Kennedy told Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, "You'd better give him his show because I'm concerned if he doesn't have it ... that God knows what could happen by way of violence."[10]

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

Administration officials also concluded the best optics would be to present the matter as a conflict between state and federal authority, not a racial confrontation between the white governor and the black students. Further, by keeping the students away from the doorway, the administration was not forced to charge Wallace with contempt of a federal court order. So it was that Malone and Hood remained in their vehicle as Wallace, attempting to uphold his promise as well as for political show,[6][11] blocked the entrance to Foster Auditorium with the media watching. Then, flanked by federal marshals, Katzenbach told Wallace to step aside.[1][12] However, Wallace interrupted Katzenbach and gave a speech on states' rights.[6][13]

Katzenbach called

federalization of the Alabama National Guard under the Insurrection Act of 1807.[15] 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.[2]


In the days following the enactment, the National Guard were ordered to remain on the campus owing to a large Ku Klux Klan contingent in the surrounding area. Wallace and Kennedy exchanged volatile telegrams over it.[16] Wallace objected to Kennedy ordering the Guard to remain on the campus and said that Kennedy bore responsibility if something happened.[16] Kennedy responded stating that Executive Order 11111 made it clear that responsibility for keeping the peace remained with the state troopers under Wallace's control and said he would revoke the order if assurances were made.[16] Wallace refused, stating he would not be intimidated and cited that Executive Order 11111 was passed without his knowledge.[16]

Executive Order 11111 was also used to ensure that the Alabama National Guard made sure that black students across the state were able to enroll at previously all-white schools.[17] It was complemented by Executive Order 11118, which provided "assistance for removal of unlawful obstructions of justice in the State of Alabama".[18][19] As of June 2024, Executive Order 11111 has not been revoked.[18]

The stage managing of the incident did avoid provoking violence, but it also served Wallace's purposes by amplifying his contention that desegregation was not primarily an issue of racial justice, but one of "states' rights" instead.[20]

Cultural references

The incident was detailed in

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." The younger Wallace said that when he was 14, he sang the song for his father and thought he saw a look of regret in his father's eyes.[24]

See also


  1. ^ In February 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. ^ a b Elliot, Debbie. Wallace in the Schoolhouse Door Archived November 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. NPR. June 11, 2003. Accessed February 19, 2009.
  2. ^ ]
  3. ^ Governor George C. Wallace's School House Door Speech Archived August 6, 2002, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed February 19, 2009.
  4. ^ Joe (June 11, 2015). "The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door". Arthur Ashe Legacy. Archived from the original on June 11, 2024. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  5. ^ "Address on Civil Rights". Miller Center of Public Affairs. June 11, 1963. Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2013. 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.
  6. ^ a b c Standing In the Schoolhouse Door (June) Archived June 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. Accessed February 19, 2009
  7. from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  8. from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  9. from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  10. from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  11. from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  12. from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  13. ^ Wallace, George C. (December 12, 2012). "Governor George C. Wallace's School House Door Speech". Alabama Department of Archives and History. Montgomery, Alabama. Archived from the original on August 6, 2002. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  14. ^ "Executive Order 10730: Little Rock Nine: Integration of the University of Alabama". Shmoop. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  15. ^ .
  16. ^ a b c d "Dueling Telegrams: 1963 verbal power play between Wallace and JFK" (PDF). Alabama State Archives. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2015. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  17. ^ "Kennedy federalized National Guard to integrate Alabama public schools (Sept. 10, 1963)". September 10, 2013. Archived from the original on June 11, 2024. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Executive Orders Disposition Tables". National Archives. August 15, 2016. Archived from the original on June 11, 2024. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  19. ^ United States General Accounting Office (1965). Decisions of the Comptroller General of the United States. Vol. 43. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 296.
  20. from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  21. .
  22. from the original on June 11, 2024. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  23. ^ Behind the Magic of Forrest Gump: "George Wallace." in Forrest Gump special collector's edition (DVD). 2001.
  24. ^ Grayson, Wayne (June 8, 2012). "Son says former Gov. George Wallace repented for past". The Tuscaloosa News. Archived from the original on November 25, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2016.

External links