News / USA

Controversial Alabama Governor's Daughter Promotes Racial Tolerance

Daughter of Controversial Alabama Governor Promotes Racial Tolerancei
X
February 24, 2014 11:27 PM
February is Black History Month in the United States -- a time to pay tribute to events that helped shape the history of African Americans. A pivotal moment in that history happened 51 years ago, after two African-American students became the first to be admitted to an all-white university in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. The move came despite efforts by then Governor George Wallace to prevent the school's integration, in defiance of federal government orders. But as VOA's Chris Simkins reports, the daughter of the controversial governor is now speaking out about the dark chapters of civil rights history in a quest to promote racial harmony.
Chris Simkins
February is Black History Month in the United States -- a time to pay tribute to events that helped shape the history of African Americans.  A pivotal moment in that history happened 51 years ago, after two African-American students became the first to be admitted to an all-white university in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. 

The move came despite efforts by Alabama's then-Governor George Wallace to prevent the school's integration, in defiance of federal government orders. 

The daughter of the controversial governor is now speaking out about the dark chapters of civil rights history in a quest to promote racial harmony.

"It stained Alabama, of course, but it stained him for the rest of his life," said Peggy Wallace, who recalls the painful legacies of her father and the mark he left on a racially-divided southern state five decades ago. 

Running as a segregationist, George Wallace took office in 1963, pledging to maintain a way of life in Alabama.

"I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," he said.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Wallace defiantly defended state and local laws that sought to keep blacks and whites separated in schools, restaurants and many other public places. He gained worldwide attention when he tried to block two black students from attending the all-white University of Alabama.  

Peggy Wallace -- just 13 years old at the time -- recalls the impact of her father's actions.

"The rest of the world, when they saw his name or a picture of him, there’s an asterisk by his name or picture: 'That’s the man who stood in the Schoolhouse Door, that blocked the two African-American students from entering that university,'” she said.

Confronted by federal authorities with a court order, Wallace finally stepped aside and the black students entered the school.

Peggy Wallace married and raised a family -- rarely speaking about her father until the election of Barack Obama as the nation's first black president in 2008.

"I decided that day that I had to do something, you know," she said. "I had to stand for something, leave a legacy to both of my children.  And that was later on in my years, but I was able to find my own voice and step away from the shadow of the Schoolhouse Door."

Now Wallace is doing all she can to erase the bigotry her father promoted by advocating racial tolerance.  For the last several years, she has joined forces with black civil rights activists in commemorating a bloody siege on a bridge in Selma, Alabama.  It's where her father ordered state police to brutally attack civil rights marchers.  Crossing the bridge years later, Wallace even joined hands with Congressman John Lewis who was beaten by police there nearly 50 years ago.

"They came toward us beating us with night sticks, tramping us with horses, releasing the tear gas.  I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a night stick.  I had a concussion at the bridge.  I thought I was going to die," Lewis said.

"Well for me, it was that journey with John Lewis, it was a turning point for me in my life," she said.  "He teaches and lives love and reconciliation, and I don’t think I’m rubbing anything off the asterisk [that my father left] but I would like to think that."

Peggy Wallace is now writing a book about coming out of the shadows of her father's legacy.  She also speaks to young people hoping to foster racial reconciliation, not the bigotry her father promoted in the 1960s.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid