The Politics of Race, Civil Rights, and Segregation Primary Source eText

Primary Source

Stokely Carmichael, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, speaks to a crowd of hundreds at Florida A&M University in 1967. Carmichael turned the phrase Stokely Carmichael, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, speaks to a crowd of hundreds at Florida A&M University in 1967. Carmichael turned the phrase "black power" into a rallying cry for the civil rights movement. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.
Alabama governor George C. Wallace in 1965. Wallace was an opponent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and fought to maintain segregation in his state. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Alabama governor George C. Wallace in 1965. Wallace was an opponent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and fought to maintain segregation in his state. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

"The 1963 Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace"


By: George C. Wallace

Date: January 14, 1963

Source: Wallace, George. "The 1963 Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace." Alabama Department of Archives and History. Available online at ; website home page: (accessed June 2, 2003).

About the Author: George Corley Wallace (1919–1998) was born in Clio, Alabama. He became a staunch segregationalist and won the election for Alabama governer in 1962. During his first term a series of divisive racial confrontations took place. Reelected as governor for a fourth and final time in 1982, Wallace eventually disavowed his segregationalist views and attracted a majority of African American votes in his final run for office. The politician also staged two unsuccessful, yet highly symbolic, runs for the presidency in 1968 and 1972, when he was shot and paralyzed.

Soul on Ice

Nonfiction work

By: Eldridge Cleaver

Date: 1968

Source: Cleaver, Eldridge. Soul on Ice. New York: Dell, 1968, 80–81, 83–84.

About the Author: Eldridge Cleaver (1935–1998) was arrested numerous times for theft while growing up in California. Convicted of a series of rapes, Cleaver served time in Folson Prison from 1957 to 1966. Upon his release he published Soul on Ice, written while he completed his sentence. As the minister for information for the Black Panthers, based in Oakland, California, Eldridge emerged as one of the Black Power movement's leading spokespersons.


In 1958 George Wallace entered the Alabama Governor's race as a respected circuit court judge and past state legislative representative who had a relatively liberal record on race relations. Avoiding the strident segregationalist tactics of his opponent, who welcomed an endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan in a successful bid to get white votes, Wallace was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary. As he told aides in private, "I was out-niggered [in the election], and I won't be out-niggered again," a vow he put into practice in his next gubernatorial run.

Elected in November 1962 on a platform of racial segregation in defiance of federal pressure to integrate public facilities, Governor George Wallace became the South's leading advocate of states' rights to preserve racial segregation in the 1960s. At his inauguration to the Alabama governor's office in 1963, he urged the (white) people of Alabama "to rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South," a clear reference to his defiance of federal court orders to end racial segregation.

In the chapter "The White Race and Its Heroes," Eldridge Cleaver traces the historical roots of racism that gave rise to political leaders such as George Wallace. Un-yielding in his condemnation of such segregationalist tactics, Cleaver issues a passionate appeal for all people, regardless of race, to overcome the entrenched racism that he views as pervasive in American society. Cleaver also puts his analysis of racism in an international context, comparing the history of America with the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan during World War II. Although Wallace and Cleaver both rely on historical references in describing their vision of the American nation, then, their interpretations of the nation's past yield profoundly different calls to action.


In June 1963, just months after he took office, Governor Wallace became the leading symbol of segregation when he stood on the steps of a University of Alabama building to prevent two African American students from registering for classes. In response, President John F. Kennedy placed the Alabama National Guard under federal supervision so that the students could enter the university. Although Wallace's attempt to enforce segregation had failed, his action transformed him into a national leader of opposition to the Civil Rights movement. Wallace took his power as a symbol of conservative values to the national arena in 1968, when he made an unsuccessful run for the presidency that helped to put Richard M. Nixon into the White House by splitting the Democratic vote.

As Wallace rose to national political prominence in the 1960s, Eldridge Cleaver also came to the forefront of America's racial politics. After his release from prison in 1966, Cleaver joined the Black Panther Party for

Self-Defense in Oakland, California as the group's minister of information. Under the leadership of Cleaver, Huey P. Newton, and Bobby Seale, the Black Panthers demanded health care, housing, employment, and education reforms. Although it was perceived by some as a racial separatist group, the Black Panthers insisted that the group's work could only be achieved through a cross-racial coalition. A target of numerous federal and local police investigations designed to discredit its leadership and weaken its influence, the group also called for investigations into police brutality. Cleaver, who went into exile after a run-in with the police in 1968, was expelled from the Black Panthers in February 1971 over ideological differences, and the group's popularity declined through the 1970s. Once the leading Black Power organization—even though its membership never reached more than 5,000 people—the Black Panthers disbanded in 1982.

Primary Source: "The 1963 Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace" [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: In his gubernatorial inauguration speech, George Wallace invokes the region's history in a call to his fellow white Southerners to resist federal efforts to integrate public institutions. His pledge to enforce "segregation forever" as a matter of states' rights became one of the infamous rallying cries of those opposed to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

This is the day of my Inauguration as Governor of the State of Alabama. And on this day I feel a deep obligation to renew my pledges, my covenants with you … the people of this great state.

General Robert E. Lee said that "duty" is the sublimest word on the English language and I have come, increasingly, to realize what he meant. I SHALL do my duty to you, God helping … to every man, to every woman … yes, to every child in this state. I shall fulfill my duty toward honesty and economy in our State government so that no man shall have a part of his livelihood cheated and no child shall have a bit of his future stolen away.

I have said to you that I would eliminate the liquor agents in this state and that the money saved would be returned to our citizens … I am happy to report to you that I am now filling orders for several hundred one-way tickets and stamped on them are these words …"for liquor agents … destination:… out of Alabama." I am happy to report to you that the big-wheeling cocktail-party boys have gotten the word that their free whiskey and boat rides are over … that the farmer in the field, the worker in the factory, the businessman in his office, the housewife in her home, have decided that the money can be better spent to help our children's education and our older citizens … and they have put a man in office to see that it is done. It shall be done. Let me say one more time.… no more liquor drinking in your governor's mansion.

I shall fulfill my duty in working hard to bring industry into our state, not only by maintaining an honest, sober and free-enterprise climate of government in which industry can have confidence … but in going out and getting it … so that our people can have industrial jobs in Alabama and provide a better life for their children.

I shall not forget my duty to our senior citizens… so that their lives can be lived in dignity and enrichment of the golden years, nor to our sick, both mental and physical … and they will know we have not forsaken them. I want the farmer to feel confident that in this State government he has a partner who will work with him in raising his income and increasing his markets. And I want the laboring man to know he has a friend who is sincerely striving to better his field of endeavor.

I want to assure every child that this State government is not afraid to invest in their future through education, so that they will not be handicapped on every threshold of their lives.

Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny … and I say … segregation today … segregation tomorrow … segregation forever.

The Washington, D.C. school riot report is disgusting and revealing. We will not sacrifice our children to any such type school system—and you can write that down. The federal troops in Mississippi could be better used guarding the safety of the citizens of Washington, D.C., where it is even unsafe to walk or go to a ballgame—and that is the nation's capitol. I was safer in a B-29 bomber over Japan during the war in an air raid, than the people of Washington are walking to the White House neighborhood. A closer example is Atlanta. The city officials fawn for political reasons over school integration and THEN build barricades to stop residential integration—what hypocrisy!

Let us send this message back to Washington by our representatives who are with us today … that from this day we are standing up, and the heel of tyranny does not fit the neck of an upright man… that we intend to take the offensive and carry our fight for freedom across the nation, wielding the balance of power we know we possess in the Southland.… that WE, not the insipid bloc of voters of some sections … will determine in the next election who shall sit in the White House of these United States … That from this day, from this hour … from this minute … we give the word of a race of honor that we will tolerate their boot in our face no longer.… and let those certain judges put that in their opium pipes of power and smoke it for what it is worth.

Hear me, Southerners! You sons and daughters who have moved north and west throughout this nation.… we call on you from your native soil to join with us in national support and vote … and we know … wherever you are … away from the hearths of the Southland … that you will respond, for though you may live in the fartherest reaches of this vast country … your heart has never left Dixieland.

And you native sons and daughters of old New England's rock-ribbed patriotism … and you sturdy natives of the great Mid-West … and you descendants of the far West flaming spirit of pioneer freedom … we invite you to come and be with us … for you are of the Southern spirit … and the Southern philosophy … you are Southerners too and brothers with us in our fight.

Primary Source: Soul on Ice [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: Analyzing America's history of race relations in an international context, Cleaver examines the economic and social forces that maintained racism as a force in modern American life. Unlike Wallace, who sees a proud history of individual freedom in the history of the country, Cleaver argues that America's political and economic leaders have long used racism to prevent the ideals of equality and opportunity from being realized by many Americans.

The separate-but-equal doctrine was promulgated by the Supreme Court in 1896. It had the same purpose domestically as the Open Door Policy toward China in the international arena: to stabilize a situation and subordinate a non-white population so that racist exploiter could manipulate those people according to their own selfish interests. These doctrines were foisted off as the epitome of enlightened justice, the highest expression of morality. Sanctified by religion, justified by philosophy and legalized by the Supreme Court, separate-but-equal was enforced by day by agencies of the law, and by the KKK & Co. under cover of night. Booker T. Washington, the Martin Luther King of his day, accepted separate-but-equal in the name of all Negroes. W. E. B. DuBois denounced it.

Separate-but-equal marked the last stage of the white man's flight into cultural neurosis, and the beginning of the black man's frantic striving to assert his humanity and equalize his position with the white. Blacks ventured into all fields of endeavor to which they could gain entrance. Their goal was to present in all fields a performance that would equal or surpass that of the whites. It was long axiomatic

among blacks that a black had to be twice as competent as a white in any field in order to win grudging recognition from the whites. This produced a pathological motivation in the blacks to equal or surpass the whites, and a pathological motivation in the whites to maintain a distance from the blacks. This is the rack on which black and white Americans receive their delicious torture! At first there was the color bar, flatly denying the blacks entrance to certain spheres of activity. When this no longer worked, and blacks invaded sector after sector of American life and economy, the whites evolved other methods of keeping their distance. The illusion of the Negro's inferior nature had to be maintained.…

A young white today cannot help but recoil from the base deeds of his people. On every side, on every continent, he sees racial arrogance, savage brutality toward the conquered and subjugated people, genocide; he sees the human cargo of the slave trade; he sees the systematic extermination of American Indians; he sees the civilized nations of Europe fighting in imperial depravity over the lands of other people—and over possession of the very people themselves. There seems to be no end to the ghastly deeds of which his people are guilty. GUILTY. The slaughter of the Jews by the Germans, the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese people—these deeds weigh heavily upon the prostrate souls and tumultuous consciences of the white youth. The white heroes, their hands dripping with blood, are dead.

The young whites know that the colored people of the world, Afro-Americans included, do not seek revenge for their suffering. They seek the same things the white rebel wants: an end to war and exploitation. Black and white, the young rebels are free people, free in a way that Americans have never been before in the history of their country. And they are outraged.

There is in America today a generation of white youth that is truly worthy of a black man's respect, and this is a rare event in the foul annals of American history. From the beginning of the contact between blacks and whites, there has been very little reason for a black man to respect a white, with such exceptions as John Brown and others lesser known. But respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due. If a man like Malcolm X could change and repudiate racism, if I myself and other former Muslims can change, if young whites can change, then there is hope for America. It was certainly strange to find myself, while steeped in the doctrine that all whites were devils by nature, commanded by the heart to applaud and acknowledge respect for these young whites—despite the fact that they are descendants of the masters and I the descendant of slave. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children—but only if the children continue in the evil deeds of the fathers.

Further Resources


Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.

Carter, Dan T. The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.

Farber, David. The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.

Foner, Philip S., ed. The Black Panthers Speak. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1970.

Lesher, Stephan. George Wallace: American Populist. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1994.

Lockwood, Lee. Conversations with Eldridge Cleaver: Algiers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

Rout, Kathleen. Eldridge Cleaver. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. New York: Random House, 1970.

Van Deburg, William L. Black Camelot: African–American Culture Heroes in Their Times, 1960-1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

——. New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

X, Malcolm. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove, 1966.


"A Fiery Soul Set Free." Newsweek, May 11, 1998, 72.

Johnson, Charles Richard. "A Soul's Jagged Arc." The New York Times, January 3, 1999, 16.

Riley, Michael. "Confessions of a Former Segregationalist." Time, March 2, 1972, 10.


"George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire." Available online at; website home page: (accessed October 1, 2002).

"The 1963 Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace." Available online at ; website home page: (accessed June 2, 2003).