Saturday, March 31, 2012

Civil Rights Movement In Gadsden, AL

On June 11, 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace took a stand against integration by placing himself in the doorway of the University of Alabama’s Foster Auditorium in order to block the entry of two African American students who were trying to register at the university.  One of those students, James Hood, was from Gadsden, AL; a graduate of Carver High School.  Thankfully, that day in June, President John F. Kennedy sent the National Guard to Tuscaloosa, to assist those two students in their endeavors to get an education, and eventually Governor Wallace stepped aside to allow Vivian Malone and James Hood to enter the building and enroll as students.

Ms. Malone would go on to receive her degree in business management from the university, and would enter into a lifetime of civil rights work.  She died from a stroke in 2005.  She was 63 at the time of her death.

Mr. Hood left the university after two months…for reasons I’ve yet to discover.  He would return many years later to the University of Alabama to finish his Ph.D.  He has since settled back here in Gadsden, AL.  Andy Powell of the Gadsden Times interviewed Mr. Hood in early 2011.  You may watch that interview here.

While trying to find more information about Mr. Hood on the internet, I discovered a collection of Gadsden, AL Civil Rights demonstration photos on the Penn State University Libraries website.  They are part of the Jack Rabin Collection on Alabama Civil Rights and Southern Activists.  You may find them here.  As I looked through the photos, they spoke volumes to me about the Gadsden, AL of 1963.  Notice the number of demonstrators, and their ethnicity.  I am happy that there were citizens here in Gadsden who cared and believed enough about the cause to demonstrate for it, but I cannot help but be disappointed in the turnout, and the seeming lack of support from the white community.   

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