The Story: Civil Rights Opposition

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100 years of delay have passed since Pres. Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

Pres. John F. Kennedy - June 11, 1963

Wallace blocks entry

News reports on the racial problems plaguing the South continued to attract international attention. Just one month after the end of the Birmingham Campaign, Alabama Governor George Wallace impeded the enrollment of two African American students to the University of Alabama. On June 11, 1963, Governor Wallace stood in front of the schoolhouse doors to block their entrance. Only after being confronted by federal marshals and the Alabama National Guard did Wallace stand aside. The students were enrolled, becoming the first black students at the last American university to integrate.

June 11, 1963, is an important date for a second reason. That evening, as President Kennedy addressed the nation about the day’s events, he asked Congress and all Americans to acknowledge and support “the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.” Now known as the Civil Rights Address, Kennedy’s speech outlined a legislative bill that would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just eight days after introducing the bill, President Kennedy sent it to Congress. However, the bill languished in the House of Representatives among committee chairs, some of whom wanted it strengthened and others who wished it to fail. President Kennedy did not live to see its passage as he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

Click HERE to watch and read Pres. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address. American Rhetoric