Opening the Doors
The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa
Opening the Doors is a wide-ranging account of the University of Alabama’s 1956 and 1963 desegregation attempts, as well as the little-known story of Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s, own civil rights movement.
Whereas E. Culpepper Clark’s The Schoolhouse Door remains the standard history of the University of Alabama’s desegregation, in Opening the Doors B. J. Hollars focuses on Tuscaloosa’s purposeful divide between “town” and “gown,” providing a new contextual framework for this landmark period in civil rights history.
The image of George Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door has long burned in American consciousness; however, just as interesting are the circumstances that led him there in the first place, a process that proved successful due to the concerted efforts of dedicated student leaders, a progressive university president, a steadfast administration, and secret negotiations between the U.S. Justice Department, the White House, and Alabama’s stubborn governor.
In the months directly following Governor Wallace’s infamous stand, Tuscaloosa became home to a leader of a very different kind: twenty-eight-year-old African American reverend T. Y. Rogers, an up-and-comer in the civil rights movement, as well as the protégé of Martin Luther King Jr. After taking a post at Tuscaloosa’s First African Baptist Church, Rogers began laying the groundwork for the city’s own civil rights movement. In the summer of 1964, the struggle for equality in Tuscaloosa resulted in the integration of the city’s public facilities, a march on the county courthouse, a bloody battle between police and protesters, confrontations with the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a bus boycott, and the near-accidental-lynching of movie star Jack Palance.
Relying heavily on new firsthand accounts and personal interviews, newspapers, previously classified documents, and archival research, Hollars’s in-depth reporting reveals the courage and conviction of a town, its university, and the people who call it home.
Introduction: Setting the Stage for Desegregation
Part One: The Mobs
1. The Cross and the Cadillac: January 26–February 3, 1956
2. “Mule Sense” and the Mobs: February 3–5, 1956
3. Monday’s Misfortunes: February 6, 1956
4. The President’s Problem: February 6, 1956
5. A War of Words: February 7–March 1956
Part Two: The Stand
6. Prepping for Peace: Fall 1962–Spring 1963
7. The Law of the Land: June 5–11, 1963
8. Boone versus Bull: June 6–10, 1963
9. Guns and a Governor: June 8–9, 1963
10. The Calm before the Stand: June 10, 1963
11. A Stand for Segregation: June 11, 1963
12. New Students, New Strategy: June 11–July 1963
13. Old Wounds Healed: October 10, 1996, and September 16, 1998
Part Three: The Movement
14. The Rise of Reverend Rogers: 1954–64
15. The Clash at the Courthouse: January–April 23, 1964
16. The Myth of Marable: May–June 8, 1964
17. Bloody Tuesday: June 9, 1964
18. Jamming the Jails: June 10–13, 1964
19. The Defenders: Dates Unknown
20. Testing Tuscaloosa: June 30–July 7, 1964
21. Movie Mayhem: July 8–10, 1964
22. Boycotting Buses: August 1–September 12, 1964
23. Remembering Reverend Rogers: March 25–29, 1971
24. The End of an Era: 1964–71
Epilogue: A New Beginning: June 11, 2011
“B.J. Hollars has written an important, fascinating, and timely book about the desegregation era.”—Winston Groom, author of Shiloh, 1862; The Crimson Tide: The Official Illustrated History of Alabama Football, National Championship Edition; Vicksburg, 1863; and Forrest Gump
“Through its clear, journalistic style and logical structure, Opening the Doors tells a story that has been relevant since America’s founding and continues to be relevant today.”—The Los Angeles Review
“Anyone who loves history and Alabama will love this book. Hollars has the ability to always keep readers anticipating what will happen next. No other account gives a better background on this topic.”—Linda R. Beito, coauthor of Black Maverick: T. R. M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power
“This is a serious, high-minded, thoroughly researched piece of work by a very capable writer. The most important contribution of this book is to place the nationally symbolic story of the University of Alabama’s desegregation in the same context with the intense local struggle for civil rights that was taking place concurrently in Tuscaloosa, which is almost entirely overlooked in much of the civil rights literature. Hollars’s book goes a long way toward addressing that oversight and thus tells a story that most readers will find unfamiliar, yet intriguing.”—Frye Gaillard, author of Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement that Changed America and Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom
"Opening the Doors is an insistence upon the long second look. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, becomes not that racist southern town trying to keep the blacks out of its university, but instead, and deservedly, a complicated city and people in the throes of social change. A city of multiplicities." —The Colorado Review