Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Primary Sources Documents | Further Reading

J.L. Chestnut, Civil Rights activist, on
Wallace's 1963 inauguration speech

J.L. Chestnut Q:Wallace's inauguration speech in 63. Describe where you were, what you thought.

A: My wife and I were watching Wallace's first inauguration on the television, and there he was crying, "Segregation today, tomorrow, and forever." And I said to Vivian, "My goodness, we're headed for I don't know what." And she said, "Well, I thought you told me that he was a liberal by Alabama's standards." I said, "He was, but you heard what I just heard. This is terrible. This man wants to be governor forever. And he may very well be." But even worse than that, at that time, we were trying to deal with the Bull Connors in Birmingham, the Jim Clarks in Selma, and in this little county where we sit now, these were terrible places. A black person could get killed for not saying "Sir" or "Ma'am" to a white person, or for not yielding the sidewalk. And here was a man talking about segregation forever. What he was talking about was locking into place forever a system in which, in my own county, only one hundred and fifty black folk, out of fifteen thousand, were registered to vote. And each one of these had to be vouched for by a white person. If some white person didn't say, "Ol' Ned was alright" "Ol Ned didn't get registered." And here was Wallace on the television, saying he's going to lock that in place forever. And I was horrified and all that. And it was my wife saying, "Well, you've changed. You told me the man was such and such." But, but I was fearful that the worst was to come. And it turned out to come. And just in the fashion that I had expected.

previous | back to Interview Transcripts | next

Program Description | Program Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 2000 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: