The Legacy Of George Wallace
In 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace famously blocked two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from entering Foster Auditorium on the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, preventing the school’s integration.
Nearly 60 years since this incident, students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are still grappling with Wallace’s legacy. The governor’s name still appears on the gymnasium building. One student, Dre Jelks, draws a parallel between the university’s inaction in removing Wallace’s name and the environment for black students on campus:
“As a black man, I’m tired of teachers treating me differently,”Jelks said. “Feeling like they can’t talk to me. That’s where representation matters. Hire more black faces as instructors. I don’t see me when I walk through these hallways.”
But that campus isn’t the only place where Wallace’s legacy lives on. Some have argued that Wallace laid the foundation for the way race-baiting and political opportunism currently play out in American politics.
How do we reckon with the legacy of a staunch segregationist who tried to redeem himself later in life? And what can we learn from how he wielded harmful rhetoric to create political power?
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