While I’ve been on the faculty of The University of Alabama for ten years, until tonight I had not been inside one of the most talked-about places on our campus– Foster Auditorium.
Thanks to a special event at the 13th Annual National Outreach Scholarship Conference (NOSC) featuring E. Culpepper Clark (affectionately known as “Cully”), I have walked THROUGH THE SCHOOLHOUSE Door.
Foster Auditorium is now the home of the UA Women’s Basketball and Volleyball teams. But, in June of 1963, it was the place where students registered for classes and the site of the late Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”
It’s been nearly two years since the area near the auditorium was officially named to honor of the late Vivian Malone Jones and Dr. James Hood and Autherine Lucy Foster. Both Hood and Foster spoke at the 2010 events.
In true storyteller format, Clark like an old grandfather told us what happened nearly 50 years ago here on our campus and why it was important. In 20 minutes, he seamlessly weaved together an account of so many civil rights flashpoints in the 50s and 60s and explained their significance while keeping the focus on Foster Auditorium.
If you’ve read his authoritative account of the integration of the University of Alabama, Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, you know the great deal of research that he did on this period.
But, it’s different when you’re visitor to the campus for the first time, as many of the conference attendees were.
For those who had only seen Foster Auditorium through viewing the movie Forrest Gump, Cully Clark’s presentation Tuesday night pulled all of the pieces together.
Next year –2013– will be the 50th anniversary of the one of the most important years in our nation’s history.
“No year was so pivotal to the civil rights movement than 1963,” Clark said.
He explained why it is important to commemorate those events and the one here on our campus.
According to Clark, who now serves as dean of my alma mater, the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the integration of the University of Alabama “began the transformation of this university.”
An added special treat for those of us in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, Clark was introduced by current dean Loy Singleton and Clark’s predecessor Edward Mullins was also in attendance.