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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid