E. Culpepper Clark's book is a well-researched and crisply written narrative that draws its energy from the drama of the desegregation crisis in the postwar South. . . .
The first part of the story, covering the period 1943-57, centers on the admission to and expulsion from the University of Alabama of Autherine Lucy in 1956. In retrospect this appears as an opportunity for peaceful change that was tragically lost by inept university administrators and trustees, who stalled until Alabama's populist-New Deal politics shifted sharply toward segregationist defiance following the bus boycott in Montgomery in 1955-56. The second part centers on the events culminating in Wallace’s spectacular stand at Foster Auditorium in June 1963.
The flagship at Tuscaloosa, threatened by the research pace of the branch campuses at Birmingham and Huntsville, unable to keep or recruit superior faculty during the post-Sputnik boom years, weakly led by strong politicians like John Patterson and Wallace, emerged from the drama as a badly mauled institution, notable chiefly for its football team and Coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant.
“When integrationists stood up to segregationists in the American South during the 1950s and 60s, right confronted wrong, virtue challenged evil, good guys battled bad. E. Culpepper Clark, assistant to the president of the University of Alabama, has a taste for drama -- as well as for moral principle -- and with the desegregation of his own university he had at hand a subject ideally suited to his inclinations and talents. The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama is old-fashioned narrative history, readable, involving, immediate and propelled by a motley cast of characters, each of whom had to make ethical choices that would affect not only his or her own future but also that of the nation as a whole."
—New York Times Review of Books
“This is an important and moving story. Clark tells it well, respecting his historical actors by treating them critically but fairly and respecting his readers by allowing them to draw their own conclusions.”
—American Historical Review
“E. Culpepper Clark tells a powerful story, balancing the need for continuity of theme with dozens of anecdotal illustrations of the main points, which are always blended gracefully and strategically into the narrative. The writing is accessible, engaging, and more than occasionally eloquent.”
—History of Education Quarterly