Civil Rights

Friday A/V Club: Awkward Moments with Gov. George Wallace

From Birmingham 1963 to Charleston 2015


The Charleston church massacre has inevitably inspired people to compare and contrast Dylann Roof's assault with an earlier act of racial terrorism, the Birmingham church bombing of 1963. Spike Lee's documentary on Birmingham, 4 Little Girls (1997), is one of his better movies, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

Looking online for an excerpt from the film that I could feature here, I found this extraordinary clip of an interview with Alabama Gov. George Wallace:

By the time of that interview, Wallace had done a complete turnaround on civil rights, a shift that optimists can attribute to a sincere change of heart and pessimists can chalk up to the fact that he now had to appeal to black voters as well as white ones. Either way, that may be the most awkward some-of-my-best-friends-are-black moment ever captured on camera.

Lee's full documentary can be ordered or streamed here. For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here.

NEXT: Lindsey Graham: 'Being Able to Track People, Put Them Into Systems' One Way to Prevent Mass Shootings

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  1. In the present state of the investigation (subject to the discovery of more evidence), this guy seems like a lone wolf.

    The terrorism of the Civil Rights era involved many people, eg., the Klan, and the conspirators sometimes had ties to the government. So unless there’s evidence of a conspiracy in the latest outrage, I’m not going to compare it to Jim Crow terrorism.

    1. Right now, there’s a narrative building up (without real evidence that I know of) that this fanatic-possible-lunatic is the result of some kind of racism American culture. I’d like to see some proof of this, otherwise the narrative is just loopy and dangerous.

      1. A narrative pushed by our black (OK, mixed race) president, who was elected twice. Such a terrible, terrible racist country we must be.

      2. I don’t think he’s the product of anything that is accepted in mainstream American society today, but I don’t think it’s the least bit unreasonable to think he’s the result of a lingering remnant of what was once (and really not that long ago) unfortunately a dominant attitude in American society. Our society has obviously come a long way from 50 or 100 years ago in this regard, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a small, but nonetheless significant minority of people who continue to hold those sort of beliefs that used to commonly accepted.

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  3. That was awkward. The analogy the other gentleman used about the milk horse was funny and remarkably charitable. I’ve heard that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a decent man and makes sense in normal conversation but puts on the clown with a gun act as soon as he sees a camera.

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