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Suggestions for the Classroom

Using the Film | Using the Web site

The Web site accompanying "George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire" looks at the political and personal life of Alabama politician George Wallace, as well as the historical context surrounding his activities. You can use this site to get background about Wallace and the period he was active in order to give context to viewing the film, and you can point students to the site for research projects relating to Wallace, American political life in the ‘50s and ‘60s, race relations, etc. The Web site includes the following sections:

People and Events

    Features biographical sketches of key people in George Wallace’s life and descriptions of significant events such as desegregation and politics in the incendiary year 1968. Students could review the people and events included in this section to choose a subject for further in-depth research. Go to People and Events page.

Special Features

    Including a portrait of would-be assassin Arthur Bremer, Wallace quotes, readings from Wallace biographer Dan Carter, and an online poll asking for opinions about Wallace. Students can compare their impressions of Wallace with those of other viewers, or they can choose selected quotes either by or about Wallace to use as debate topics. Go to Special Features page.

The Film and More

    Builds on the information provided in the film, by including interview transcripts, primary sources, and a bibliography for further research. Students can use these resources for their own research projects. Go to The Film and More page.


    Provides the chronology of Wallace’s life in context can be compared with that of other contemporary politicians and events. Go to The Timeline page.


    Illustrates state-by-state percentages of Wallace votes. Students can compare voting percentages to the fall 2000 presidential race. By looking at the platforms of the current presidential contenders and comparing them to Wallace’s, do they discern any voting patterns? Do they think particular views that Wallace championed still resonate today? Which ones? Go to the Maps page.

Additional Activities

  1. Ask students to write a first-person account of George Wallace’s 1963 "stand in the schoolhouse door" at the University of Alabama from the viewpoint of one of those involved. Students may use the People and Events section to choose an identity. Suggestions include Vivian Malone, James Hood, a Supreme Court justice, Nicholas Katzenbach, George Wallace, an Alabama National Guardsman, a white student, President Kennedy, a photographer, a journalist, a professor. Encourage observations and personal opinions.

  2. Using the People and Events section, have students research Wallace aide Seymore Trammell’s campaign finance methods, and compare and contrast them with methods used today. When they have finished, ask students to write in the style of a newspaper editorial how well they believe campaign finance methods have improved since Trammel’s days. Encourage them to include their own opinions about what works and what might still need reform. Ask students to consider the following: How did Trammel raise money for Wallace’s campaigns? What methods were illegal? What methods were not illegal then, but are now? What methods of Trammel’s remain today? What current methods seem unfair? How might reform take place?

  3. Study George Wallace’s political life with your class through the Web site articles, and have students participate in the featured poll. Then ask students to devise a poll of their own critiquing your school elections. Such a poll might take place on a Web site, through e-mail, or through paper ballots in boxes. Have students brainstorm questions regarding various aspects of school elections. Questions might include: Did all candidates have equal resources (funds, airtime, equipment)? Were candidates sincere? Were platforms clear? Were platforms meaningful? Has promised change taken place?

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