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Opening the Doors

The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa

B. J. Hollars

Publication Year: 2013

Opening the Doors is a wide-ranging account of the University of Alabama’s 1956 and 1963 desegregation attempts, as well as the little-known story of Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s, own civil rights movement.

Whereas E. Culpepper Clark’s The Schoolhouse Door remains the standard history of the University of Alabama’s desegregation, in Opening the Doors B. J. Hollars focuses on Tuscaloosa’s purposeful divide between “town” and “gown,” providing a new contextual framework for this landmark period in civil rights history. 

The image of George Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door has long burned in American consciousness; however, just as interesting are the circumstances that led him there in the first place, a process that proved successful due to the concerted efforts of dedicated student leaders, a progressive university president, a steadfast administration, and secret negotiations between the U.S. Justice Department, the White House, and Alabama’s stubborn governor.

In the months directly following Governor Wallace’s infamous stand, Tuscaloosa became home to a leader of a very different kind: twenty-eight-year-old African American reverend T. Y. Rogers, an up-and-comer in the civil rights movement, as well as the protégé of Martin Luther King Jr. After taking a post at Tuscaloosa’s First African Baptist Church, Rogers began laying the groundwork for the city’s own civil rights movement. In the summer of 1964, the struggle for equality in Tuscaloosa resulted in the integration of the city’s public facilities, a march on the county courthouse, a bloody battle between police and protesters, confrontations with the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a bus boycott, and the near-accidental-lynching of movie star Jack Palance. 

Relying heavily on new firsthand accounts and personal interviews, newspapers, previously classified documents, and archival research, Hollars’s in-depth reporting reveals the courage and conviction of a town, its university, and the people who call it home.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Setting the Stage for Desegregation

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pp. 1-6

On the morning of June 11, 1963, two african ameri can students—twenty- year-olds James Hood and Vivian Malone—attempted to register for classes at the University of Alabama, only to find their state’s chief executive, Governor George Corley Wallace, remaining firm on his campaign pledge to stand in the schoolhouse door in an effort to block desegregation. While the ...

Part One: The Mobs

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1. The Cross and the Cadillac: January 26–February 3, 1956

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pp. 9-17

On the night of Thursday, January 26, 1956, a cross burned on the quadrangle of Tuscaloosa’s University of Alabama. Flames leaped within view of Denny Chimes—the campus’s 115- foot campanile—as shadowy figures dis-appeared into the trees, distancing themselves from their deed. In the nights that followed, additional crosses continued to light up the night, ....

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2. “Mule Sense” and the Mobs: February 3–5, 1956

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pp. 18-25

Autherine Lucy’s entrance into The University of Alabama captured the attention of the state, the nation, and the world, so much so that local newspaper street sales leaped nearly 75 percent on the Thursday prior to her first day of class...

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3. Monday’s Misfortunes: February 6, 1956

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pp. 26-33

A few minutes before her 9:00 a.m. Monday class, Autherine Lucy rode in the passenger side of African American businessman Henry Nathaniel Guinn’s Cadillac, entering into an unsettlingly silent campus. The ghost town atmosphere seemed greatly at odds with the weekend’s excitement, though the silence wouldn’t last...

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4. The President’s Problem: February 6, 1956

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pp. 34-39

Directly following Monday’s near disastrous demonstration, an all but defeated President O. C. Carmichael addressed the faculty, informing them, “unless we can maintain law and order on the campus, we might as well close shop.”...

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5. A War of Words: February 7–March 1956

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pp. 40-50

In the Tuesday, February 7, edition of the Tuscaloosa News, editor Buford Boone struck back against the mobs.
As the board of trustees finalized their vote to suspend Lucy from campus, Boone began outlining the editorial that would one day earn him a Pulitzer Prize. In his editorial, “What a Price for Peace,” Boone recounted the...

Part Two: The Stand

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6. Prepping for Peace: Fall 1962–Spring 1963

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pp. 53-61

The University of Alabama’s second attempt at desegregation began in Mississippi. On the morning of Monday, October 1, 1962—at the conclusion of a nightlong firefight that left a French journalist and a jukebox repairman dead—twenty-nine- year- old African American James Meredith marched toward the Lyceum...

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7. The Law of the Land: June 5–11, 1963

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pp. 62-66

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 5, 1963, J. Hal McCall—president of the Tuscaloosa Historical society—along with probate judge David M. Cochrane, Pastor J. H. Chitwood, and other local dignitaries, placed pictures, employment lists, and a variety of other memorabilia into a copper box to be inserted into the cornerstone of the newly constructed Tuscaloosa County ...

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8. Boone versus Bull: June 6–10, 1963

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pp. 67-71

If we have violence, it will have been brought on by George Wallace.While Governor Wallace began offering his views on desegregation, so too did the Alabama state legislature. In a slight departure from business as usual, on Friday, June 7, the legislature gave up any semblance of a neutral stance and instead adopted a resolution “expressing its good wishes and prayers for Gov. ...

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9. Guns and a Governor: June 8–9, 1963

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pp. 72-80

On Saturday, June 8, Governor Wallace informed President Kennedy by telegram that he was calling in five hundred Alabama National Guardsmen in an effort to keep the peace.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” wrote Wallace, “I will call approximately 500 Alabama National Guardsmen effective Sunday . . . to be used only in the

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10. The Calm before the Stand: June 10, 1963

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pp. 81-85

Monday, June 10, began another blistering week in the heart of Alabama, though temperatures would creep even higher the following day. In anticipation of the governor’s stand, over four hundred correspondents from through-out the world descended upon Tuscaloosa, some traveling from as far away as Japan, Korea, and the Netherlands. But the reporters with the most unique ...

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11. A Stand for Segregation: June 11, 1963

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pp. 86-96

On Tuesday, June 11, James Hood and Vivian Malone woke early, though the federal officials woke earlier still. By 5:30 a.m. attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Tuscaloosa team—led by Deputy attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach— was already awake and awaiting orders. The first radio trans-mission between Nicholas Katzenbach and Burke Marshall in the attorney ...

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12. New Students, New Strategy: June 11–July 1963

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pp. 97-107

Whenever you go to a new place you expect to be lonesome at first.Motivated by the success in Tuscaloosa, President Kennedy informed his aides that he planned to address the nation that very night, interrupting regularly scheduled programs to outline his proposal for civil rights legislation. While the possibility of a televised speech had floated through out the Oval ...

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13. Old Wounds Healed: October 10, 1996, and September 16, 1998

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pp. 108-114

Vivian Malone and James Hood had not seen the last of George Wallace. In a strange twist of fate, on October 10, 1996, Vivian Malone-Jones was awarded the first Lurleen B. Wallace Award of Courage, an award presented to an Alabama woman who best exemplified the spirit and fortitude of the state’s first female governor—who also happened to be George Wallace’s departed wife...

Part Three: The Movement

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14. The Rise of Reverend Rogers: 1954–64

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pp. 117-121

In the winter of 1964, a change befell Tuscaloosa. The small southern town was less than a year removed from Wallace’s stand, but already the local african american community was beginning to feel empowered. While the past decade had witnessed various efforts at improving race relations—including the formation of the Human rights Council, the first integrated meeting ...

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15. The Clash at the Courthouse: January–April 23, 1964

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pp. 122-130

By the winter of 1964, local African Americans already had a hunch that T. Y. Rogers wasn’t like Tuscaloosa’s other reverends; not only did he leave his pulpit, he left it to march in the streets. He dedicated much of his first winter in Tuscaloosa to amassing his force. Civil rights activist Olivia Maniece remembered well Rogers’s door-to- door- salesman approach.


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pp. 131-142

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16. The Myth of Marable: May–June 8, 1964

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pp. 143-150

Through out May of 1964, Tuscaloosa’s civil rights movement continued to gain momentum, culminating in a weeklong demonstration of marches and boycotts scheduled for the first week of June. The newly installed reverend rogers had wasted little time organizing demonstrations in opposition to what he believed to be the city’s segregationist policies, carefully selecting his ...

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17. Bloody Tuesday: June 9, 1964

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pp. 151-159

On the morning of Tuesday, June 9, Police Chief William Marable’s efforts for peace were severely tested, as well as his ability to restrain his men from violence. As young African Americans bounded toward First African Baptist Church for another downtown march, a police officer stared on from afar, his stomach knotted with foreboding...

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18. Jamming the Jails: June 10–13, 1964

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pp. 160-165

The battle at First African Baptist Church was Tuscaloosa’s first major racially motivated clash since the mobs spurred by Autherine Lucy’s enrollment at the University of Alabama eight years prior. Yet in the time between, the dynamics had dramatically shifted. While in 1956 a single African American female had faced a lawless mob, by 1964, several hundred African Americans ...

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19. The Defenders: Dates Unknown

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pp. 166-173

Since Autherine Lucy’s close call eight years prior, a small group of Tuscaloosa’s African American men—mostly ex-military, Korean War veterans— began holding secret meetings at Howard and Linton’s Barbershop, sneaking in the back entrance to maintain their anonymity. Their goal: to set up a...

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20. Testing Tuscaloosa: June 30–July 7, 1964

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pp. 174-182

With the July 2 passage of President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act, a new world began emerging throughout the South. Fully aware of the political ramifications of the act, Johnson was rumored to have mumbled to an aide, “We have lost the South for a generation.” It was a problem President Kennedy...

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21. Movie Mayhem: July 8–10, 1964

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pp. 183-192

While they had experienced some minor successes in dining establishments throughout town, in July of 1964, African Americans took their fight to the movies. After Tuscaloosa’s Bama Theater endured a few integration attempts—one successful, one not—the Druid Theater became the next target, the latest battleground for segregation. In the first weeks of July 1964, the Druid...

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22. Boycotting Buses: August 1–September 12, 1964

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pp. 193-199

Tuscaloosa’s civil rights movement began and ended with the buses.
In the spring of 1962, Reverend Willie Herzfeld had just settled into the bleachers of a high school baseball game when a breathless Stillman College student ran toward him...

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23. Remembering Reverend Rogers: March 25–29, 1971

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pp. 200-210

March 25, 1971, was an unseasonably cold night in Georgia. With a low of 32 degrees, much of the city was tucked safely in their homes, though Reverend Rogers remained hard at work deep into Thursday night and early Friday morning. While the young reverend remained TCAC’s leader and continued serving as head pastor at Tuscaloosa’s First African Baptist Church, he and his ...

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24. The End of an Era: 1964–71

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pp. 211-221

While Autherine Lucy’s 1956 attempt at desegregation ended in chaos, it proved a necessary step toward future desegregation efforts, proof of which was made clear seven years later by Governor Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door. Wallace’s stand, too, left an indelible mark, serving as a barometer for a nation’s struggles with race. While both of these events maintain clear...

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Epilogue: A New Beginning: June 11, 2011

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pp. 222-224

At the time of this writing, forty-eight years ago today James Hood and Vivian Malone walked through the doorway of Foster Auditorium and made history. I walked through the same doorway yesterday afternoon and did not. Instead, I was greeted by this message on the wall directly before me: ...


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pp. 225-256


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pp. 257-276


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pp. 277-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386696
E-ISBN-10: 0817386696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317928
Print-ISBN-10: 0817317929

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 18 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013