1966 September 2

Gov. George Wallace Signs Law Declaring Federal School Desegregation Regulations “Null and Void”


Alabama Gov. George Wallace, still committed to preserving racial segregation, on this day signed a law declaring federal education regulations related to integration “null and void.” In addition to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, decided on May 17, 1954, which declared segregated schools unconstitutional, two newer laws gave the federal government greater powers over state and local education. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited racial discrimination by contractors and agencies that received federal funds. The 1965 Education Act provided, for the first time ever, federal funds for local schools. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) then began developing regulations requiring that schools receiving federal aid be integrated.

Gov. Wallace’s attempt to declare the regulations “null and void” was an echo of the pre-Civil War idea of “nullification,” which leaders in the slave states believed gave them the power to nullify federal laws. The idea of nullification reappeared in the years 2009–2014 as some gun owners’ rights advocates invoked it in opposition to federal gun control laws.

Learn more about Wallace: Dan T. Carter, The Politics of Rage: George C. Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics (1995)

Watch George Wallace’s famous 1963 inauguration speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMDWov-kGcQ

Learn about the historical background of “nullification”: Richard Ellis, The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, States’ Rights, and Nullification Crisis (1989)

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