News / USA

    Controversial Alabama Governor's Daughter Promotes Racial Tolerance

    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

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora