Program honors historic civil rights event
Posted February 22, 2008; 01:24 p.m.
The integration of the University of Alabama -- a historic moment in the civil rights movement -- will be commemorated with a program titled "The Opportunity of Crisis: Integrating the University of Alabama" from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29, in McCosh 50.
The event will feature a discussion with Princeton alumni John Doar and Nicholas Katzenbach, who played key roles in the event as members of the Kennedy administration's Justice Department.
Hosted by the Program in American Studies, the Center for African American Studies and the Program in Law and Public Affairs, the program will feature a screening of the documentary "Crisis: The Making of a Presidential Commitment," followed by two panels that will reflect on the events of June 1963 and their enduring legacy.
In a dramatic moment, Alabama's segregationist governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium to try and halt the admission of two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood -- and was turned aside by the federal government. That same night, President Kennedy delivered a speech to the nation that offered an eloquent plea for racial justice.
The events were the subject of the film "Crisis," directed by Robert Drew. With camera crews in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Washington, D.C., Drew captured the tension that lay behind the confrontation. The film includes candid footage of the key participants, including Malone, Hood, Wallace and Kennedy, as well as officials working at the Justice Department under Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Those officials included Doar, a 1944 Princeton graduate, and Katzenbach, a 1945 alumnus, who served as assistant U.S. attorneys general in the 1960s.
In the first panel on Feb. 29, director Drew, along with one of his cameramen, the distinguished filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, will discuss the making of the film and its place in the history of American cinema as well as American politics. In the second session, Doar and Katzenbach will discuss the events and the lessons they hold for the present.
The discussions will be moderated by Valerie Smith, the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and director of the Center for African American Studies, and Sean Wilentz, the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the American Revolutionary Era.