50th Anniversary of a momentous day in the Civil Rights movement


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of a momentous day in the Civil Rights movement. On June 11, 1963, the U.S. government enforced the court order of the U.S. District Court in Alabama to desegregate the University of Alabama (a federalism lesson our Birthers-Birchers-Secessionists in Arizona who put "nullification, interposition and secession" measures on the Arizona ballot have forgotten). Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to block Deputy U.S. Attorney Nicholas Katzenbach from enforcing the court's order (see news video below).

Katzenbach called President John F. Kennedy, who immediately issued a proclamation to federalize the Alabama National Guard to enforce the order of the U.S. District Court. At about 3:40 p.m., Governor Wallace finally stood aside,
and Vivian Malone and James Hood entered the building and enrolled at
the University of Alabama.

That evening, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation on the moral question of civil rights. America, “for all its hopes and all its boasts,”
observed Kennedy, “will not be fully free until all its citizens are
free.” "The time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise."

Later that evening, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was assasinated in front of his home, marking the first in a series of assassinations that would claim the lives of President Kennedy, his brother Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The Birmingham News reports today, Alabama remembers Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, 50 years of desegregation today:

Today marks the 50-year anniversary of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace's infamous "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" and the desegregation of the University of Alabama.

The school will honor the actions of the first two black undergraduate students at the institution with a public event today.

"Through the Doors: Courage. Change. Progress." recognizes the actions of Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood,
the first two black undergraduates to enroll at the Capstone on June
11, 1963. Autherine Lucy, a graduate student expelled three days after
her admittance, was UA's first black student.

Community members will gather today at Foster Auditorium, the site where Malone and Hood registered for classes 50 years ago.

6 p.m. event will include presentations by current students and notable
UA graduates, including Andre Taylor, who served as the first black
president of UA's National Alumni Association and UA Trustee John
England, a current circuit judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who was on the UA campus 50 years ago, is scheduled to attend.

Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal Blog writes about President Kennedy's address to the nation that evening,

“The Time Has Come For This Nation To Fulfill Its Promise”:

[T]hat evening, having won this important battle, John F. Kennedy
surprised his own staff by requesting network television time, and made
the speech that forever identified the 35th president of the with the
civil rights movement.

As Tufts University’s Peniel Joseph notes in today’s New York Times,
JFK’s speech was a turning point for Kennedy himself, and a key
landmark on the road to the enactment, after his death, of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965:

Kennedy began slowly and in a matter-of-fact manner, with an
announcement that the National Guard had peacefully enrolled two black
students at the University of Alabama over Wallace’s vociferously racist

But he quickly spun that news into a plea for national unity
behind what he, for the first time, called a “moral issue.” It seems
obvious today that civil rights should be spoken of in universal terms,
but at the time many white Americans still saw it as a regional, largely
political question. And yet here was the leader of the country, asking
“every American, regardless of where he lives,” to “stop and examine his

Then he went further. Speaking during the centennial of the
Emancipation Proclamation — an anniversary he had assiduously avoided
commemorating, earlier that year — Kennedy eloquently linked the fate of
African-American citizenship to the larger question of national
identity and freedom. America, “for all its hopes and all its boasts,”
observed Kennedy, “will not be fully free until all its citizens are

Perhaps the most significant part of the speech came near
the end, when Kennedy, borrowing directly from the movement’s rhetoric,
recognized the civil rights struggle as part of a political and cultural
revolution sweeping the land — again, an obvious point to anyone on the
other side of the 1960s, but not to a white population still living in
the stifling bliss of the Eisenhower era.

Within hours after Kennedy’s address ended, civil rights activist Medgar Evers
was murdered by a Citizens’ Council and Ku Klux Klan member in front of
his home in Jackson, Mississippi, an event that may have overshadowed
the presidential speech initially, but also helped shape the climate of
public opinion that made civil rights a truly national issue.

The civil rights outlined by President Kennedy in his speech were enacted into law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.