Us vs. Them: From George Wallace to Donald Trump

Donald Trump has used populist politics to appeal to voters who are fed up with the status quo. We look at another politician who tapped into America’s divisions decades ago: George Wallace.

For teachers
  • Read transcript
  • Producer: Kit R. Roane
  • Producer: Meral Agish

For Educators


This seven-minute video introduces students to the politics of white backlash against the civil rights movement by chronicling the rise of Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, the most vocal defender of segregation during the 1960s and early 1970s. After losing his first gubernatorial campaign for being too moderate on racial issues, Wallace shifted his positions to suit the increasingly anti-integration views of his constituents, only to shift back to moderation and reconciliation in the late 1970s after political winds had changed. Useful for lessons focused on the evolving racial politics of the 60s and 70s, the video shows students how desegregation and the civil rights movement led to a tumultuous reshuffling of American politics.

Lesson Plan 1: George C. Wallace and the Politics of Segregation

Students will learn how Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s evolving positions on race reveal both the intensity of the white backlash to desegregation during the 60s and the growing political power of the black community during the 70s and early 80s.

  • How Alabama Gov. George Wallace achieved national prominence by manipulating the politics of racial resentment.
  • How the emerging political power of black voters and leaders caused Wallace to change his posture towards racial politics.
  • How the achievements of the civil rights movement reshaped the politics of race.
Essential questions
  • What was the focus of George Wallace’s campaign when he first ran for governor of Alabama in 1958? How did his loss in that election change his political posture on racial issues?
  • How did Wallace use the politics of race to advance his career and presidential ambitions during the 1960’s and early 1970s?
  • How had Wallace’s positions on racial politics changed by 1982?
  • How did the black community in Alabama respond to Wallace’s change in posture towards the end of his career?
  • Common Core State Standards
    • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.11-12.3:Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequences of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact or develop over the course of a text.
    • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RH.11-12.7:Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework
    • D2.His.14.9-12.Analyze multiple and complex causes and effect of events in the past.
    • D2.Civ.13.9-12.Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
  • AP U.S. History
    • Topic 8.10: The African American Civil Rights Movement

      Skill 5.B: Explain how a historical process relates to another historical process.

      Theme 8: Social Structures (SOC).

  • AP Government and Politics
    • Unit 5: Political ParticipationTopic 5.3: Political Parties
      Topic 5.8: Electing a President
      Topic 5.9: Congressional Elections
      Topic 5.10: Modern Campaigns