Tuscaloosa, Alabama (JFK+50) George C. Wallace, the governor of Alabama, stood at the entrance of the state university here in Tuscaloosa 51 years ago today, June 11, 1963, to symbolically block the registration of two African-American students at the previously all-white institution.
President John F. Kennedy's representative, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenback, asked the Governor to abide by the ruling of the courts and allow the students to be admitted.
When the Governor refused, Katzenback informed President Kennedy who then federalized the Alabama National Guard.
Then confronted by General Henry Graham, Governor Wallace stepped aside allowing Vivian Malone and James Hood to pass.
JFK ADDRESSED CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE 51 YEARS AGO TONIGHT
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-one years ago tonight, June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House on the issue of civil rights.
The speech, the first ever given by an American president exclusively on the issue, followed the failed attempt by Governor George C. Wallace to stop two African-American students from being admitted to the University of Alabama.
JFK called civil rights...
"a moral issue....as old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution."
President Kennedy said:
"If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his child to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, who would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the civil rights movement, called it "the most sweeping and forthright speech ever presented by an American president."
JFK Speaks on Civil Rights
June 11, 1963
Photo by Abbie Rowe
"Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero," by Chris Matthews, Simon and Schuster.