On any given weekday, you will see a variety of students from different ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic classes wandering the quad, dorms, and halls. As an institution, we have come to reflect and embrace these differences, but the University of Alabama has not always been open to the idea of diversity. Just fifty years ago, there were riots and protests to keep individuals who did not share the same skin complexion out of the classroom here at The University of Alabama.
In 1963, James Hood was one of the first African Americans to attend the University of Alabama. Could you imagine having to be escorted by the National Guard just to enroll because your presence is not wanted due to the color of your skin? Accompanying him on his journey was another student named Vivian Malone. Governor Wallace was against integrating the university and such and stood at the doors of Fosters Auditorium. Despite Wallace’s attempts at keeping Hood and Malone from registration, they were later enrolled and attended classes soon after. Hood eventually switched to Wayne State University in Detroit, where he graduated, although he later came back for graduate studies here at the University of Alabama. As Governor Wallace ran for presidency, he was shot, which left him disabled, and Hood visited him a few times. It was said that Wallace and Hood became friends and Wallace apologized for his actions in the prior years.
James Hood was laid to rest in January of 2013. He will always be remembered as a courageous man who contributed to paving the way for individuals, like myself, to attend the University of Alabama. We have come a long way in 50 years.