Bull Connor, George Wallace, Jefferson Davis: Who are these historical villains?

President Joe Biden’s comments on the right and wrong side of history are increasingly being watched a few days after he tried in vain to persuade other Democrats, such as Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, to change Senate rules and approve new voting rights protections.

“In the following moments of history, they represent an election,” Biden said in a speech from Atlanta earlier this week. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

Everyone knows who’s good.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. he was a leader with a dream of equality, which symbolizes the era of civil rights. In 1968, he was killed by an assassin. We celebrate his birthday with a federal holiday on Monday. There is a monument with his portrait on the National Mall in Washington.

John Lewis was a civil rights activist an activist who was beaten on the Selma Bridge in Alabama and who served in Congress and was celebrated across the political spectrum after he died in 2020.

Abraham Lincoln was the president who restored the union “with malice to no one” and who was also beheaded by the murderer. His memorial is near King’s on the Mall.

But these other names, important in history and once known throughout the country, are not so well known today.

Who are George Wallace, Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis?

Wallace, who Biden painted as a graduating King, he was a segregationist and former longtime governor of Alabama. A Southern Democrat, he ran for president in 1968 under the American Independent Party and won five Southern states. He is the last candidate outside the main party to win electoral votes.

George Wallace was governor of Alabama for four terms between 1963 and 1987. In this photo, he attempts to block integration at the University of Alabama, standing defiantly at the door on June 11, 1963, while confronted by US Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.  .

Connor, who Biden, who described Lewis as a con man, was born Theophilus Eugene Connor. He was a former public safety commissioner in Birmingham, Alabama, who had the Ku Klux Klan beat up civil rights activists whose police dogs intimidated the protesters and who fought for integration through every fiber of their being.

Here is a report in Time magazine from 1963, when black Americans rose in Birmingham under King:

“Birmingham was arguably the toughest segregating city in the South, from a black people’s point of view.” … β€œ

Davis, who Biden, referred to as Lincoln, was president of the Confederacy – a man who helped tear up the nation after Lincoln was elected president. The statues of Davis have been demolished in recent years, although many have remained.

It’s easy to see why Biden chose these three characters as villains in his speech. Republicans cringed at Wallace, Connor, and Davis.

“How deep – deep – presidential,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “I know, I love, and I personally respect Joe Biden for many years. I didn’t know the man on stage yesterday.”
The White House clarified Biden’s comments on Friday, saying he was not making a “human” comparison.

“I think anyone who listens to the speech, who speaks at a level as my mother would say, would notice that he doesn’t compare them as people, but compares the selection with those figures in history and with where they stand. how they determine whether they will support the fundamental right to vote or not, “said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The Convocation of Connor and Wallace was popular among Democrats. Former President Barack Obama mentioned both men at Lewis’ funeral in 2020.

“Bull Connor may be gone,” Obama said. “But today we are witnessing police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. George Wallace may be gone. But we may be witnessing our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful protesters.”

History is also not as simple as Biden suggested, at least in the case of Wallace.

When he was first inaugurated in 1963, Wallace disgustedly promised, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He revered the Confederacy and worked to overthrow the civil rights movement backed by Democrats in Washington. However, Wallace’s appeal spread beyond the South, even though it was an old version of the changing party.

He ran as American Independent in 1968, but in 1972, as a Democrat, he ran again and pushed for opposition to bus transport (ask Biden about that). But he was shot by a madman and his campaign was interrupted, even as he gained momentum.

In 1976, he still held power in the party, even though he was in a wheelchair at the time. So much power that when he finally supported future President Jimmy Carter, Carter flew to Montgomery, Alabama, to personally thank him for getting out of the race.

Wallace began to regret the racism he had once abused – he regretted it and tried to rehabilitate his image, even asking Lewis for forgiveness. Lewis wrote an essay in the New York Times in 1998 after Wallace died and said he should be forgiven.

“George Wallace should be remembered for his ability to change,” Lewis wrote. “And as a nation, we are better off because of our ability to forgive and recognize that our political leaders are human beings and largely reflect social currents in the river of history.”

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