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

J.L. Chestnut Q:What was your reaction to the 1986 speech, when he retired from politics?

A: My wife Vivian and I were watching Wallace's retirement speech to the legislature. We were watching it on television at home. And he was saying, "I bid you farewell. I come to the end of my career." And he had tears in his eyes. And my wife said to me that, "It may be the end of his career for him personally, but the legacy that he has created will be with us for years to come." And the reason she was saying that is because at that time, we were battling about tracking in the schools where black children were being shunted off to become bricklayers and that sort of thing, and not allowed to take algebra on the basis of race. That we were fighting so many of the same battles that we'd been fighting when George Wallace had come to power. And we knew that the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church would be a legacy that would remain with us for years and years to come. That it took almost 25 years to prosecute the people who bombed that church and killed four children. And we were still fighting to get blacks registered. Some of them were still frightened to go to the courthouse or even vote. There was a whole legacy there that would not have been there, certainly not with the intensity, had Wallace not played the games he played. And he was saying farewell, but we knew it was not farewell for us. The struggle continues.

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