A picture of Representative Terri A. Sewell
Terri S.
Democrat AL 7

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  • In Recognition of the 50Th Anniversary of the Integration of the University of Alabama

    by Representative Terri A. Sewell

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    SEWELL of alabama in the house of representatives Thursday, February 28, 2013 Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 50th Anniversary of the integration of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

    This weekend, a bi-partisan congressional delegation led by Representative John Lewis (D-GA) will travel to Alabama as a part of the 13th annual Faith & Politics Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. I have the great pleasure of co-hosting the delegation with my fellow Alabama colleagues Representatives Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and Martha Roby (R-AL). The Pilgramage allows participants to retrace the steps of our nation's Civil Rights icons through the historic civil rights sites in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma. It is also a time to reflect on our painful past while acknowledging our current progress.

    This year marks the 50th Anniversary of so many significant civil rights events that occurred in 1963. One of those events was the infamous stand taken by then Governor Wallace at the doors of the University of Alabama to prevent black students from registering. The University of Alabama has come a long way since that infamous day to promote racial diversity within its student body, faculty, and administration.

    Today, I pay special tribute to the University of Alabama and commemorate the 50th anniversary of a pivotal event in the struggle for racial equality in America. I believe it is important that we must acknowledge our painful past and frame its significance in the global fight for civil and human rights. The history of the State of Alabama must be embraced for the critical role it played in the Civil Rights Movement which caused a global movement for the quest of human dignity and rights around the world. We, in the 7th Congressional District of Alabama, pay tribute to the University of Alabama, one of the crown jewels of higher education in our district, and honor the courage of the black students--Autherine Lucy, James Hood, and Vivian Malone--who paved the way for the multitude of successes the University enjoys today.

    On June 11, 1963, two African-Americans, James Hood and Vivian Malone attempted to enroll at the University of Alabama. Prior to their attempts, only one African-American, Autherine Lucy, had been successful in registering and actually attending classes at the institution.

    In 1957, Autherine Lucy and Polly Anne Myers filed suit against the University to clarify their rights and obtain an injunction after being denied admission based on race. The injunction was granted and Ms. Lucy was eventually admitted to the University. She became the first African-American to attend a white public school or university in the State of Alabama. However, she was unfairly expelled after just three days when the University suggested that her presence was a nuisance to the campus because they could not provide a safe environment for the young student.

    In 1963, pursuant to the same injunction, James Hood and Vivian Malone made a second attempt to fully integrate the University. Upon their arrival to the Tuscaloosa campus, former Alabama Governor George Wallace attempted to block Hood and Malone from entering Foster Auditorium to register for classes. As the world watched, Governor Wallace's attempts to prevent integration of the University of Alabama were recorded in our Nation's history as ``The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.'' Governor Wallace was determined to defend his now infamous declaration: ``Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, and Segregation Forever.'' But his efforts to halt progress were short lived. Later that day, Hood and Malone with the support of a federal court order and members of the Alabama National Guard, were eventually allowed to register for classes and pursue their degrees. They are forever recorded in our nation's history as two of the first African-American students to attend the University. Vivian Malone was the first African- American to graduate from the University of Alabama and James Hood later received his doctorate from the University.

    Today, ``The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door'' is remembered as a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of this historic event, we recognize its significance in the quest for justice and equality. While there were dark moments, the events of that day are now seen as a catalyst on our road to forming a more perfect union.

    Today, the University of Alabama stands as a beacon of inspiration. The diversity represented in today's student body is a visible reminder of the sacrifices of Autherine Lucy, James Hood and Vivian Malone. Because of their bravery and courage, the University of Alabama now boast a widely diverse student body, an outstanding academic curriculum and a world class athletic program. Today, the University of Alabama is ably led by its first woman President, Dr. Judy Bonner. We recently celebrated having the number one collegiate team in four NCAA sports-- including women's gymnastics and football being named the BCS National Champions for the second year in row.

    As a benefactor of the courageous contributions of Autherine Lucy, James Hood and Vivian Malone, I am humbled by the opportunities their bravery has afforded all black Alabamians. As Alabama's first African- American Congresswoman, I know that my journey would not be possible without their sacrifices.

    On behalf of the 7th Congressional District, the State of Alabama and this nation, I ask my colleagues to join me in paying tribute to the University of Alabama and its important place in our nation's history.

    Roll Tide! ____________________

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