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122Southern Cultures The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama. By E. Culpepper Clark. Oxford University Press, 1992. 305 pp. Cloth, $25.00. Reviewed by Tinsley E. Yarbrough, professor ofpolitical science at East Carolina University. His latest book is Judicial Enigma: The First Justice Harlan. In the wake of the Supreme Court's 1954-55 decisions striking down state-enforced segregation in the public schools, two young black women embarked upon a courageous mission to challenge racial barriers in Alabama, one of the most unreconstructed of southern states. In 1956 frantic University of Alabama officials found "moral" grounds for denying admission to Pollie Anne Myers, the determined and persistent natural leader of the two crusaders. The university complied with a federal judge's order to admit Myers's companion Autherine Lucy to its hallowed halls. Following campus rioting and Lucy's published suspicions that the university was involved in a conspiracy against her, school officials expelled her and the most outspoken white student opponent of her admission. Alabama's schools and colleges remained totally segregated until 1963, when George C. Wallace became the state's governor on a vow to "stand in the schoolhouse door," if necessary, to preserve "segregation now, tomorrow, and forever." The governor would keep that promise for only five months. On 11 June 1963, he journeyed to Tuscaloosa, the national guard in tow, in an effort to prevent the University of Alabama's compliance with a federal court order admitting Vivian Malone and James Hood to its student body. But when Wallace stopped the students and Justice Department officials at the entrance of the university registration building, invoking the long-discredited but politically expedient doctrine of interposition, President Kennedy intervened. Nationalizing the guard, the president ordered them to enforce the court's decree and secure the campus. These two historic episodes evoke bizarre images that are permanently embedded in the nation's collective memory. A University of Alabama student swinging chimpanzee -like from the base of a flagpole, Confederate flags flapping near him in the wind as he regales a mob with racist jokes, exalts white civilization, and urges resistance to Autherine Lucy's admission. The mob's chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Autherine's got to go!" An intoxicated student jumping up and down on a car, while its frightened black occupants cower inside. A mob, pelting Autherine Lucy and university officials with eggs and descending on the president's mansion to demand her removal. The University's subsequent expulsion of Lucy. Then, several years later, Governor Wallace, armed with a lectern and flanked by Alabama state troopers, striking a theatrical pose of defiance. Kennedy Justice Department emissary Nicholas Dell Katzenbach, perspiring profusely, seeming uncertain whether to laugh or to cry, and watching helplessly, if temporarily, as the governor plays out his charade. Clark's fine book recalls these and many other memories. He offers readers a vivid account of the struggle to desegregate the University of Alabama as well as that controversy 's relationship to the broader civil rights movement. In the section devoted to the Autherine Lucy affair, Clark also does a masterful job of capturing the major and secondary figures in his story, their personalities, and the forces driving them. His profiles of the student protagonists are richly insightful, as are his depictions of University President Oliver C. Carmichael, patrician member of one of Alabama's most distinguished families, who proved no match for the anti-Lucy forces; Carmichael's flamboyant sue- Reviews123 cessor, Frank A. Rose, who presided over the university's successful 1963 integration; Hill Ferguson, the crusty board of trustees chairman who seemed willing to go to any lengths to keep the university white; and Leonard Wilson, the expelled white student ringleader of anti-Lucy forces who later became a major figure in the Citizens' Council movement. Particularly revealing is Clark's portrait of Wilson—product of a broken home, raised in humble circumstances by a devoted and hardworking, but bigoted mother. Wilson was so obsessed with race that he began compiling segregation scrapbooks while still in high school. Clark's work succeeds best, however, as a detailed investigative chronicle. Drawing heavily on interviews...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 122-124
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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