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Title: Oral History Interview with Stetson Kennedy, May 11, 1990. Interview A-0354. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Kennedy, Stetson, interviewee
Interview conducted by Egerton, John
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 136 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-04-28, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Stetson Kennedy, May 11, 1990. Interview A-0354. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0354)
Author: John Egerton
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Stetson Kennedy, May 11, 1990. Interview A-0354. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0354)
Author: Stetson Kennedy
Description: 158 Mb
Description: 42 p.
Note: Interview conducted on May 11, 1990, by John Egerton; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Jackie Gorman.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Stetson Kennedy, May 11, 1990.
Interview A-0354. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Kennedy, Stetson, interviewee


Interview Participants

    STETSON KENNEDY, interviewee
    JOHN EGERTON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JOHN EGERTON:
I can't remember what I didn't xerox, but whatever it was, it seemed to me this was what was significant. I particularly wanted to list the names because I wanted to pursue some of that. Maybe a good place for us to begin would be for you to give me a little historical background on your family, and how it is that it turned out, in 1946, that a 33 year old, white guy from the deepest section of the South should end up writing a book like Southern Exposure. I mean, where'd you come from? What's your background?
STETSON KENNEDY:
[Laughter.] I hate to tell you.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, I want to hear you. I'm really curious about it.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I hate to tell you that I've already done to the tune of hundreds of hours of taping, and a lot of it is already in print. So that unless you prefer to get the answer on your tape, I'm able to put in your hands transcripts of other people's tapes that went on for hours and hours.
JOHN EGERTON:
That'd cover a lot of that.
STETSON KENNEDY:
They didn't miss a whole lot, except, of course, no end to it, no beginning and no end. None of the other people, Peggy Bulger for example, who will be here day after tomorrow, is doing her doctorate at Pennsylvania on the working title of Stetson Kennedy, Folklore in the Service of Human Rights. She's done hundreds of hours of taping, but again, with the focus on folklore and my use of it. She interviewed Myles Horton just before he passed, and Virginia Durr, and some other people.

Page 2
But it seems to be that there's an important story to tell in terms of some of the personalities who were sort of the force majeure [major force] in each case in the whole scene of, I call it, softening up the South for righteousness, the '30s and '40s, which, really, we were looking for chinks in the wall, and doing what we could to widen them, and raising standards, and clearing air, in the hope that someday it would be possible to hit the streets.
JOHN EGERTON:
But why, though?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Why?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, why were you thinking in those terms when you were just a 30 year old man in a land full of people who didn't think that way?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, even in high school, my classmates were saying to each other, "What got into Stet?" you know. So it happened early, whatever it was.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think you know what it was?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I think so. You know, with people asking me constantly, in retrospect, I'm aware that journalists especially want some magic key incident that turns you around, you know, and made a saint out of a sinner, or whatever. [Laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
Paul on the road to Damascus.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Although there were plenty of incidents, all of my senses, all of the time, were telling me that things were rotten in the South, throughout the South, in the world for that matter. Not only in terms of race and apartheid, but all manner of injustice. I was equally concerned with all manner, and race was

Page 3
just one of the most gross injustices we had going. So that my answer, don't ask me what was wrong with me, what was wrong with the rest of the state and South and nation and world that was engaged in that sort of oppression of one people over another.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, not to belabor your past too much, just tell me where you were born. Just give me the basic background of your coming of consciousness on this issue. Where were you born?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Jacksonville, 1916, at least one grandfather fighting for the Confederacy, mother writing papers for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Family, no more, no less, racist than the norm, par for the course, southern white.
JOHN EGERTON:
Middle class, upper middle class, wealthy?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, farm backgrounds, but, of course, all you have to do is go back far enough and everyone was farm background, more or less. But my father got into [was] a retail merchant. Came from a farm in south Georgia, Statesboro, to Jacksonville. My mother's family was Millersville and Macon, and came to Punta Gorda, and grew up in Punta Gorda. Opened general stores, my grandfather did, and things of that sort. So there was that background. We're talking Depression, so that all things are relative. In those terms, we had like a fourteen room, southern thing with columns going up two stories and columns around both sides.
JOHN EGERTON:
In Jacksonville?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yeah. But on the other hand there was a mortgage. Had a place near Asheville in the summer and a place at Jacksonville

Page 4
beach. But we had to rent them out all the rest of the time, except the few weeks that we were there.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was your family religious?
STETSON KENNEDY:
He was chairman of the board of deacons for two or three decades.
JOHN EGERTON:
Of what?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Baptist, First Baptist, Jacksonville. And I was told that the Kennedy boys, there were eleven of them, and no girls.
JOHN EGERTON:
This is your father?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yes. There were eleven Kennedy boys in Statesboro, Georgia, and together with their cousins, the Joneses, they built the first church in that county, Bullock County, Baptist Church.
JOHN EGERTON:
You had ten uncles?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yeah, no aunts on that side of the family.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you like your father?
STETSON KENNEDY:
They said he was too good a Christian to be in the furniture business. In those days, furniture was sold on credit, and young couples were coming in, holding hands, and wanting a house full of furniture, and no money and no job. Wanting him to set them up in life.
JOHN EGERTON:
Lot of book reading go on in this house?
STETSON KENNEDY:
And he often did. Instead of taking the furniture away from them when they were unable to pay, he would let them, if they had no job, ride for months. My job was collecting a dollar a week on most accounts, both black and white, so I got to see a lot of the South that way. What was it you asked me?
JOHN EGERTON:
Did a lot of book reading go on in this house?

Page 5
STETSON KENNEDY:
We had an extensive library by southern standards, yeah.
JOHN EGERTON:
Your mother?
STETSON KENNEDY:
She was into Dickens and all of these leather bound things, including a volume of the Stetson kindred, showing that we're all descended from someone named Cornett Robert. I think he spelled it Studson. Landed at Situate, that's up in Connecticut or Massachusetts somewhere.
JOHN EGERTON:
How many of you were there?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Five. I was the oldest. I had one brother and three sisters.
JOHN EGERTON:
What's happened to them?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, I was already organizing for the CIL in Atlanta when he came along, that is, came of age, and he married a St. Petersburg debutante, and I tried to talk him into becoming a labor organizer like me. He said, "No, George, you just make your first million, and then you can do all the organizing you want." So he's been a real estate trust officer for Georgia Trust Company all his life. Of course, his children were caught up in the '60s, flower people thing, and he can't figure out where he went wrong.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah. And your sisters, what about their families?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Same sort of story.
JOHN EGERTON:
Pretty much the same.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yeah.
JOHN EGERTON:
So you've been kind of a maverick all your life. Did you feel you were a maverick within that family structure?

Page 6
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, I'm trying to think of some parallel. It's true that I've always felt like an alien in the land of my birth, so to speak, but this was in cultural terms, as well as racial or political or any of those things. But I just didn't like country music that much, for example. But I don't know what to say as to, when you say that someone is born into a system of apartheid and takes exception to it, there must be a better word than maverick.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah. Except that's the way the system was. I mean, that is the reality.
STETSON KENNEDY:
That was the public attitude, there's no question about that. That was the word applied, but, as I say, it's a loaded word. I suppose it's the fate of any one who speaks out against the prevailing injustice.
JOHN EGERTON:
To be branded.
STETSON KENNEDY:
In his own territory. That's the penalty.
JOHN EGERTON:
Have you kept close ties with your brothers and sisters?
STETSON KENNEDY:
There are articles lying on the table in there that both appeared last Sunday, the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, both referring to the fact that like forty years ago at table, one of my sisters said, "I do believe you'd rather be with niggers than with us." I said, "As a matter of fact, I would." And got up. They haven't communicated with me or me with them, really, in forty years. It's a form of internal exile which I was not the only example of that. Judge Waites Waring, of course, in Carolina, who rendered the first decision

Page 7
against the white primary, had to take his entire family out of the South.
JOHN EGERTON:
Came back to be buried and nobody white would go to his funeral.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Is that so, still that way, huh? I suspect my family will not be in attendance at my funeral [laughter] , for what that's worth.
JOHN EGERTON:
What kind of relationship did you keep with your mother and father until they died? I assume they're dead.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, the same article I referred to mentioned the fact that when Palmetto Country, my first book, came out, it had just enough about the black condition for my father to say, "Good job, son, the Yankees will believe every word of it, and we southerners will recognize the truth when we see it." So I suppose it's typical. They were torn by a certain amount of pride in a member of the family publishing a book, and at the same time, concerned about family reputation because of the kind words I had to say about blacks. Mixed feelings, ambivalent.
JOHN EGERTON:
Have you gone away for any substantial period of time to work outside this region?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, born in Jacksonville in '16 and lived here until I went to Key West after dropping out of the University of Florida because I decided neither of us were doing the other much good. Went to Key West. I may have invented Independent Studies. I shipped a trunk load of books to Key West by water and then hitchhiked after them, and stayed there. Married a Key West girl and stayed there about five years off and on.

Page 8
Following that, I had several years in Atlanta, and three or four years in Manhattan, and then about eight years overseas, throughout Europe and North Africa. Saw most of Europe.
JOHN EGERTON:
During the war?
STETSON KENNEDY:
No, after the war.
JOHN EGERTON:
In the late '40s?
STETSON KENNEDY:
No, in 1950 I ran for the U.S. Senate here in Florida when Claude Pepper was defeated by George Smathers in the Democratic primary. Some friends urged me to announce as an independent, write-in candidate in the general election against Smathers. The NAACP's political adjunct called a state meeting and invited all of the three candidates. The other two didn't respond even, and I showed. They endorsed me. I campaigned on a platform of "Right Supremacy, Not White Supremacy," "Total Equality," "Color Blind Candidate," thing like that. Couldn't get the Florida radio stations to broadcast my tapes, radio in those days. Federal communications, I appealed to them, and they finally made them play the tapes. I had the pleasure of sitting in Florida [laughter] gyp joints, and watching the faces when the Total Equality message came on [laughter] . It was like doomsday, you know. They couldn't believe they weren't drunk and hearing things. But of course, the intention was not to get elected but to clear the air.
JOHN EGERTON:
And of course, you got tromped.
STETSON KENNEDY:
This was under the heading of what I said earlier, what I call softening up the South for righteous. I think those of us who were doing that sort of thing in the '30s, '40s, and '50s

Page 9
hopefully made things a bit easier in the '60s when it began to move. Less blood.
JOHN EGERTON:
In other words, your feeling would be that because this small group of people were out there doing what they did, that it made the inevitable clash of white and black and whatnot less of a new civil war than it would have been otherwise?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, I'm sure you're as much aware as I am that we're not really talking South, we're talking about the nation, and that segregation had permeated the nation. Even legalized and compulsory segregation was not confined to the South. Restrictions against racial intermarriage was in the majority of the states, a matter of law. The federal government, the intelligence community, the Armed Forces, all segregated and grossly discriminating on the basis of race. So it was not a southern phenomenon but a national one. We were an integrally racist state in much the same way that the Union of South Africa is in terms of it being a part of the basic law and institutions in society. And your question was did the things we were able to do in those decades. . . ? It was our intent certainly, and it's interesting to note the parallels with South Africa now. You have the fact in this country of the Durham Statement, issued by blacks at Durham, North Carolina. I forget the year, what was it, mid '40s?
JOHN EGERTON:
'42, I think. It was during the war.
STETSON KENNEDY:
After the war, I believe.

Page 10
JOHN EGERTON:
No, the Durham Statement was in '42. The Atlanta Statement that responded to it was in '43, and SRC was born out of it in '44.
STETSON KENNEDY:
It's in my book, but I don't read my own books [laughter] .
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, I know. It's relatively minor.
STETSON KENNEDY:
That explains it partly. I suppose the war brought about a considerable impetus to the whole thing. You had some people arguing that black rights should be put on a back burner, and like including labor rights and no strike policies until the war had been won. A. Philip Randolph and other blacks were saying, "Be damned if that's so. There's never a better time to push for black rights than during a war for the four freedoms." You're going to have four freedoms world wide, then black rights in America are an integral part of it. So we had to march on Washington during the war. And as you say, the Durham Statement was an ultimatum in my estimation by blacks, and the Atlanta Statement was a response by southern whites to it. You had ensuing controversy or difference of opinion, at least, between the Southern Regional Council and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare on that question of whether the thing to do was to attack discrimination or to include a frontal assault on segregation, per se.
JOHN EGERTON:
And you ended up saying that both of them were necessary for strategic reasons. That's the way, at least, I read what you. . . .

Page 11
STETSON KENNEDY:
In Southern Exposure I promulgated a strategy that both camps were very much needed, in order that all those who were willing to oppose discrimination, the more the merrier. At that same time, those who were willing to attack all segregation, that too was past due. So that the two efforts were being made simultaneously. We had things like "the first feet in the door." I'm not sure that anyone's ever gone looking for those. But I noticed that [Bob] Strozier's name as editor of the Macon Telegraph, was it? He was a liberal gentleman, and went so far as to write editorials urging Macon to hire one black policeman, and that was the first black policeman in the South since reconstruction.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, if you leave out Kentucky.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, Kentucky doesn't count [laughter] . Anyway, in the deep South, that was our first. He was, of course, forbidden by law to carry a gun or arrest white folks for any reason [laughter] . But still, it was the way things began to happen. And that, of course, was a Southern Regional Council, I believe, initiative. I may be wrong about that. One of the neglected agencies for change, in my opinion, was the Committee for Georgia which Maggie Fisher served as executive director. What's the name of the woman, I'll think of it in a moment? She headed it, and she was instrumental in getting Arnold elected, and she did that by working with others to abolish the county unit voting system which enabled demagogues like lalmadge to control the state. He always said he could carry any county which didn't have a streetcar. The county unit system was like the electoral

Page 12
college. If you carried the county, you got their electoral votes, so the big cities didn't count.
Some of the other personalities working out of Atlanta, as a focal point, were Reverend weatherspoon Dodge and his successor Willard Uphouse. They headed up the Religion and Labor Foundation which had considerable impact.
JOHN EGERTON:
Black, white?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Both white. Weatherspoon Dodge was excommunicated from his church, some documental thing. Dr. George S. Mitchell, Rhodes scholar, Virginian, heading up the CIO PAC, and it was with Mitchell that I worked for several years. His instructions to me as editorial director for PAC, writing educational materials for the rank and file, were no Latin derivatives whatsoever, everything four letter, Anglo-Saxon. He said it was still a foreign language to the rank and file, the Latin, and to do it all in Anglo-Saxon. So that was my assignment.
JOHN EGERTON:
I know it has to be difficult for you now, looking back on this, fifty years past, to sort out what you think now, or what you thought even twenty-five years ago, from what you thought at the time.
STETSON KENNEDY:
What I thought?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah. Do you think your views. . . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
I'm not aware of any change whatever since the time I became conscious. My thinking has been substantially unchanged.
JOHN EGERTON:
In other words, you could say that the objectives that you saw you were pursuing in 1940, '41, '42, '45, were as clear to you then as they are now?

Page 13
STETSON KENNEDY:
Possibly clearer [laughter] .
JOHN EGERTON:
You think so?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yeah. What were those major objectives? In the matter of race, my chapter in Southern Exposure was total equality and how to get it. Pearl Buck's magazine, Common Ground, which Margaret Anderson edited, republished that, together with a similar piece by Lillian Smith, who, of course, we Floridians, its past time we claimed her, because she was born in Florida, not Georgia. So we two Floridians were among the few white voices taking that absolutist, total equality stand, and I can't imagine or conceive of any reason for modifying a stand like that.
JOHN EGERTON:
I guess what I was referring to though was, if you were trying to chart a strategy now, you wouldn't say that there was a place for both an SRC gradualist approach and a Southern Conference. . . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
No, in terms of strategy as to what remains ahead, as times have changed, and no doubt call for different strategies and tactics. But the goal is constant. I've been saying that where we once had segregated racism, we now have desegregated racism, in terms of then and now. By the same token, we may no longer be Jim Crowed, but we're approximately as black ghettoed as we ever were. And in any number of other areas, a similar measure of progress and non-progress. Those remaining problems certainly call for some urgent and intensive action in my opinion.

Page 14
JOHN EGERTON:
Looking at that time, aside from yourself and Lillian Smith, what other white people can you think of who had that clear a vision of what the country needed to do?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, you were showing me a list of southern editors and publishers conference.
JOHN EGERTON:
Anybody on that list?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I'm not that personally well acquainted with them and their positions at the time.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, George Mitchell is on there, for example. Do you think George Mitchell had that kind of vision?
STETSON KENNEDY:
George Mitchell, I worked with him and supped with him. That is, we shared an apartment during the years I worked with him. So I cross-examined him at frequent intervals on such matters. He had a habit of, may be virginian, to answer all questions with an anecdote, not a parable but an anecdote. In the matter of segregation, he took the position that the best strategy was to somehow, and his concept was the CIO and unionization, black and white in the same union, which was revolutionary in the context of that time—that this could bring about the economic emancipation of blacks, and given economic emancipation, southern whites would be far more willing to open doors to an economically emancipated black than to. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
In other words, it was a more gradual strategy.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, on that subject his answer was that it was very good for society that there were people like me, far out in left in field, breaking ice and raising hell, so that he and others in the center could move things along. That we were ground

Page 15
breaking. They were in a position of saying, well, we better do something.
JOHN EGERTON:
I guess that's really my point. That aside from you and Lillian Smith who had, really, no affiliation—you were head of no organization, you had no body of troops behind you and no economic resources to marshall against the forces that prevailed—you were really out there on the front end by yourself, and voices in the wilderness, really. Is that not so? Can you think of others who. . . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
It's been a while since I thought about who else was out there, and there were others, of course, and vast numbers of blacks.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's a different question now.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Blacks were always ready to go.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, I could give you a long list of them, but I'm talking about white folks.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Let me talk about Lillian Smith a second, and perhaps some other examples will come to me. I was there in Atlanta, plugged into the CIO PAC. My assignment was to write about things like poll tax and white primary and other restrictions of voting, and the CIO policy, although its policy was white and black in the same union, it would never say outright that it was opposing segregation or that part of its mission was to uphold segregation and so on. It was simply going to practice non-segregation and non-discrimination, and look at every member as a brother and without any discussion about what color anyone was.
JOHN EGERTON:
Just gonna to it.

Page 16
STETSON KENNEDY:
So this was, needless to say, a very effective approach. But they were not talking desegregation. They were simply practicing it, which was all right with me. So my emphasis was upon voting restrictions which affected all poor southerners, white and black, and only incidentally the white primary, for example, and the special restrictions put on black voting. But I went across the board on that subject. At the same time, Lillian Smith was up at, where was her place in Georgia?
JOHN EGERTON:
Up in the mountains in Clayton.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Clayton. And publishing South Today with Paula Snelling. Lillian Smith's writings, she was coming from, well, first of all, her technique was somewhat analogous to Highlander. That is, she brought a handful of people to Clayton, her home, on weekends, black and white. They had discussions and social gatherings and so on. So that she was doing that in much the same manner that Highlander was doing it on a larger scale. The corner she was coming from, so far as I could decipher from the magazine and her other writings, novels, was to a degree social psychology and analysis even, and perhaps to a degree Freudiam analysis. This was all right with me. I think wherever she was coming from, she did a lot of good.
JOHN EGERTON:
She said some pretty strong stuff and said it beautifully. She really could express herself.
STETSON KENNEDY:
She did. She pulled no punches. The fact that she pulled no punches and made no qualifications, I think made it extremely powerful. I remember when [Senator] Bilbo was on his

Page 17
death bed, cancer of the throat, I guess our most rabid racist, and in the Congressional record still—he would read all the classics of racism, Hitler or anyone else he could find, into the Congressional record in the fillibusters against our anti-poll tax bills and anti-lynching bills and so on. But on his death bed, Bilbo called in the press and said that [laughter] he preferred the surgeon's throat cutting style. They were going to cut vertically, whereas books like Lillian Smith's, what was it, Color?
JOHN EGERTON:
Strange Fruit?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Strange Fruit, and Kennedy's Southern Exposure, they were cutting his and the South's [laughter] throat horizontally. They were virtually his last words.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, certainly the two of you are the only two white people that I can think of off of this list or anybody else's list who were saying things in that explicit a way. Everybody else that I can think of even including Myles Horton, Highlander, you know, they a different approach to what they were doing. Your approach was very direct and frontal and straight out, here's what I think, here's what needs to happen, but these other people were all for good reasons, I'm not being critical . . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
They had organizations and institutions and even the techniques which they employed in the case of Myles Horton and Highlander, he came under gun fire more that once.
JOHN EGERTON:
Of course, subsequently, he got deeply involved in race but in 1940, 30's and 40's, that was just not their strategy. They had a different focus, a different approach.

Page 18
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, it has to be said I think, that compared to South Africa today, for example, or at least a few years back, that the American South was far more rigid and segregation appeared to be more invincible, for more that it is in South Africa today, so that you had not only the KKK but in effect every institution, white institution, in Southern society, proceeding on an assumption and insistence that segregation was ordained by God and was eternal. Therefore, it was not open to discussion. That was the sort of the air we were breathing and the mother's milk we were getting.
JOHN EGERTON:
And yet, on the other hand, one of the things that surprised me when I got back and started reading this record was how much more moderate the press in the South was in the 30's than I expected to find it. I expected to find, for example, that with one or two or with half a dozen exceptions the newspapers of the South would really sound pretty much like Bilbo and Talmadge and "Cotton" Ed Smith, when in fact they didn't. They had a sort of genteel, paternalistic liberalism about them. Papers like the Macon Telegraph when Mark Ethridge was there. And papers like the Raleigh paper and the Richmond paper when old man Dabney was a young man writing a book called Liberalism In The South, sort of a classic view of liberalism as a philosophical attitude that totally ignored race and didn't even touch on that. There was this pretense to liberalism, I mean even in '38 when the people went to the Southern Conference they were able to draw a crowd of fifteen hundred people there and use the term liberalism in a fairly non-threatening way.

Page 19
STETSON KENNEDY:
We were roughly a half century ahead of America today in such matters. We've gone that far backward in my opinion, so that on the one hand you had the Great Depression which meant that not only the United States of America but the western World was in a state of collapse, far worse than that in Eastern Europe today. Whereas, today Bush is prating about the bankrupt ideology of Socialism, Communism, Marxism. In the Great Depression everyone from the Pope to the labor leaders to the leaders of government were all saying that something was very wrong with this system, its failed and that millions around the world are starving and the system is in a state of collapse. Soi that in that environment to be liberal was almost not enough. Anyone who wasn't liberal was either dead mentally or something had to done obviously—it wasn't working and when the thing was at rock bottom no one had any reasonable assurance that there was any way to resurrect it, the system looked beyond resurrection. Roosevelt came along with his pump priming and work programs with a great deal of opposition. When Roosevelt spoke to the southern audience and said that southern feudalism had to go that he needed some liberal men and women in Congress and the Senate up from the South so that he could carry on his programs, the reactionary southern racists demigods were in the saddle in Congress and ruining the nation.
JOHN EGERTON:
He said that at least once when walter George was sitting on the platform.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Right, so asking the electorate to sending better people and they didn't do it. In my mind that was the abortive

Page 20
end of the New Deal. He was in a state of a holding pattern from then on.
JOHN EGERTON:
And yet, again, not to be to much of a devil's advocate here, but from 1938 till let's say '50 that might have been the only chance the South ever had to fix its on social wagon voluntarily. You did at least have the Depression ending, you had a New Deal program, you know, you can quarrel about the pieces of how effective it was. And you had Iruman who was at least willing to take some actions on civil rights. Again, you can quarrel about his motives were and all the rest. You had people coming out of the war, out of a liberal war for the sake of discussion, a war against racism, at least on the German front. Women going to work in factories, people going across the country and across the world, coming out of the war into a society that was bankrupt. Wasn't it a fruitful time for everything to turn over—isn't it just totally ridiculous to think that that might have happened at that time?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I'm glad you said might because it didn't happen.
JOHN EGERTON:
It didn't even come close to happening, in fact, we had the civil rights movement as a consequence of it not happening.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I don't know how old you are, but I lived through all of those things you are talking about. My strong recollection is that the Depression never did effectively come to an end and only the war production of World war II did mitigate the Depression to a great degree. The first real economic opportunity came with the war and war production.

Page 21
JOHN EGERTON:
Was the war itself a liberalizing influence on any of these people?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I was going to say in that same period, before we get into the war, that such change as took place and I guess my periods . . . I'm thinking in terms of things like the . . . we were pushing at that time if I'm not mistaken, although it may have come later, the things like the Scottsboro Case were front page, and the anti-lynching law in Congress which the southerners always filibustered and the anti-poll tax law, but I guess these things did come along—they were wartime thrusts. I was thinking that first they come before but they didn't. And you use the language that the South could have done it itself, well, when under the impact of the war we did get anti-lynching bills and anti-poll tax bills and some of the things into the Congress, on the floor, Claude Pepper and other sponsors. This ultimately had the effect, in some cases, the South was persuaded that rather than have the Feds do it for them or force them to do it they would do it "voluntarily". So southern states proceeded to abolish their own poll taxes in large part to short circuit the Feds from doing it for them. There were other areas in which that same sort of . . . it wasn't southern conscience that brought it about but it has been my experience throughout life, in this century anyway, that the moral conscience tends to assert itself relatively more often on the national level than it does on the local and state level. Social progress originating on local and state levels is more rare than it is on the national, I don't know why that's a phenomenon.

Page 22
JOHN EGERTON:
And in truth, I guess you would be hard put to say that there was much national impetuous for that to happen in the South even in that time, just to be perfectly honest about it. Truman aside and what little he did, I don't FDR did much on race.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yes, we had things like—when the war broke out Roosevelt casting about for war aims said it was a war for the four freedoms, and in my opinion, its been a deliberate conspiracy not to let succeeding generations of America know what those four freedoms were so if you took a poll of the present generation it would be a very rare individual who had any idea what the four freedoms were.
JOHN EGERTON:
I couldn't name one right now. Freedom from want is the only one I remember.
STETSON KENNEDY:
It's the fate of most war aims in my view. But in this case freedom from want and fear, which is a pretty large order, this is worldwide and of course no one would dare mention anything that liberal or radical in 1990. And the other was freedom of speech and religion. But those things, even before the war was over, the Defense Department had started out on its indoctrination and I applied for the Office of War Information and things like that. In the first phase of the war they were publishing little information bulletins for the buck private on what is Fascism and things like that. In very short order those things were withdrawn and no one ever mentioned Fascism, as such, again in the course of the war. There again, Fascism was a reality, it reeked havoc worldwide. It has very much bearing on the two systems still prevailing and in my opinion we have a

Page 23
version of Fascism throughout much of the third world, and much of it installed, trained and maintained by the CIA or the American Intelligence for various reasons. These are the realities of then and now.
JOHN EGERTON:
I guess I keep probing for why in God's name you did what you did, I mean, it looks to me like no matter what your gut told you, your head would have told you that you were crazy to think that this place was ever going to change and in point of fact it truly hasn't changed all that much.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, my sons of course, have completed their college educations and went on to become lawyers and one thing and another. The question is why I deliberately changed to do what I did. What little I had read about human history, I could see a contemporary unfolding of history. I decided that while I would have enjoyed money especially to build libraries, see the world, things of that sort, and my own library, I simply decided to do this other and of course, it's when . . . I'm working on my autobiography under the title of Dissident at Large. I did it when I was in eastern Europe in the 50's, remarking to a member of the Soviet Acady, an academician, how difficult it was to cajole the American establishment into paying you to dissent. And it was one of the few times I saw a Russian laugh heartily. Imagine how difficult it would be in the Soviet Union to get paid to dissent. But relatively that's what I've been through and no regrets about it. I'm as poor now as when I started out, which was with a $20.00 secondhand typewriter and I have had difficulty

Page 24
keeping myself with a typewriter still after fifty years of pounding on one.
JOHN EGERTON:
How are coming on you autobiography?
STETSON KENNEDY:
It's eighty percent complete. In fact, I have thirteen books on an assembly line upstairs. All sixty percent or more. It's the bottom of the sack.
The question of motivation is . . . I know you're not coming at it from a typical journalist point of view of a gimmick as to what turned me.
In terms of things like infiltrating the Klan . . . I must have gotten into twenty such terrorist violent groups, American Gentile Army, and the Columbians and Confederate Underground, all those things. The decision there was hinged to the war thing which I had a back which wouldn't let me get in the service. I figured that all my classmates were going overseas to fight fascism and I was just. . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JOHN EGERTON:
You made those decisions on your own?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yes, I made these decisions and first steps in joining and for years was entirely on my own. In other words, the infiltration was free lance like the writing. And only from time to time did people like Drew Pearson, predecessor to Jack Anderson. . . . I would telephone to him the minute of the Klan's last meeting and he would broadcast them each Sunday, nationwide on the radio, names of politicians and businessmen attending and everything the Klan had done or getting ready to do and password. He would on occasion send me $10.00. I remember the Grand Dragon was saying, "I might as well call in and talk to Pearson myself and collect the money myself. I know that he will have the whole minutes as soon as we adjourn."
JOHN EGERTON:
But he didn't know who it was?
STETSON KENNEDY:
No, but of course, I think Freedom House gave Pearson an award and all I got was the $10.00. I don't begrudge him the award at all, I think he earned it. He came down and broadcast on the State Capitol steps against the Klan.
JOHN EGERTON:
You must have been a pretty convincing racists. I mean how do you survive . . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
I used to look in the mirror and say, "Do I really look like one of those fellows?" I could I guess. I was under suspicion because of my looks. I would try to talk rougher than they did. You'd get a question like, how blood thirsty are you in terms of recruiting for the hit squad? You'd have to answer

Page 26
something like, blood thirsty as hell. I was very happy to get out of it. It's an unclean environment.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you subsequently do investigations for other organizations?
STETSON KENNEDY:
This might be interesting. Albert Deutsch was a columnist for the PM newspaper. He came to Atlanta and we had lunch often. I told him to be careful . . . you know, I was inside the Columbians at that time and they were throwing dynamite all over . . . because I could really get massed up. He goes back and writes this thing about having lunch with one of the finest people, member of the Columbians, face of a poet or some such language as that and all the Columbians said, Perkins, meaning me. They immediately said that the only one with a poet's face in their ranks was Perkins as they thought I was.
JOHN EGERTON:
How did you respond to that sort of high suspicion?
STETSON KENNEDY:
It was all over at that point anyway. We were going into court. I had done what I could do. I was headed for the court room.
JOHN EGERTON:
In Southern Exposure you deal with the segregation debate with pro- anti segregation inside SRC in the 40's, in '44 and '45 actually, I guess. And you said that condemnation of segregation, I'm paraphrasing here, would be self-defeating. In other words, if SRC had taken the position that some of the people inside the organization wanted to take at that point, and say, "We're just coming flat out against Jim Crow and all its manifestations, we're going to be an organization that does that." I understood you to be saying at this point that's what

Page 27
the Southern Conference is pretty much doing and these guys, SRC, are trying to go at it a different way, trying to deal with the economic and political inequalities leading around, the George Mitchell approach. You seem to be saying that if they went that way and SCHW was doing what it was doing that both organizations would end up at the same point down the road. You didn't take a position with either one of those organizations, did you?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I said that there was certainly a need in the South at that time for both of them to be doing what they were doing and that they complimented one another. I made this distinction that you've just made that one was absolutist with reference to segregation and the other was simply noncommittal while working against discrimination. I think the answer to your question lies in the reality of southern society at that time where the establishment, financial and political, and all the white institutions were pretty much locked into segregation. It was not a question debated in governmental circles, financial circles or institutional circles. It was not on the agenda and many felt that it never should be, that it was fixed. In that context, societal context, you had these two organizations of southerners. Both organizations having black and white, and both being professional middle class, some labor representations but the leadership and so on, professional educators, journalists, publishers, some religious contingent, not really the power structure, the money structure but the educational circles. For some reason the conscience found expression in those quarters. In that stratum of society there were those, who for whatever

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reason or moral, or whatever conscience, felt that discrimination was wrong and they were entirely willing to eliminate discrimination, let's say in teachers salaries or anything else of that nature. But at the same time these same people had misgivings or doubts about whether desegregation was the right thing to do. My feeling, a purely pragmatic one, was by all means organize, mobilize, and utilize everyone who opposed to discrimination and let them do their thing. And at the same time those that were willing to go farther organize them and mobilize them.
JOHN EGERTON:
As far as you yourself were concerned and to a very considerable extent Lillian Smith too, you didn't get in to either camp.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I had a foot in both camps.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, but were you actually a member of either one?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I not only was a member but I produced special issues for both of them. Edited, compiled and wrote special issues of papers for both of them. On the Southern Regional Council I did a series of issues on the voting restrictions, for example. For the Southern Conference I did a series of special issues, one on the Klu Klux Klan, another anti-union terrorist group, another one on hate sheets, another one of the so called right to work thing which is now, of course—I was exposing it at the very beginning that it just announced itself in organized form, this thing of getting state legislatures to get passed open shop things and we've now seen it conquer the nation. I was there when the first move was made and put out the special edition. I

Page 29
was not just a member. You were showing me a program I'll show you . . . They had me keynote the Southern Conference meeting in Washington. They had all their senators and [Justice] Black—I suppose a half dozen senators and a dozen congressmen and Hugo Black—all sitting around the podium and they asked me to keynote. I did another one in Chicago. And so before we leave that, a fellow, William Beyer, I guess, I don't know whether he did a dissertation, he did something in book length form at Michigan, who has just recently completed something in book length on the role of these two organization in particular the role that Lillian Smith and I played.
JOHN EGERTON:
Who did this?
STETSON KENNEDY:
William Beyer, the University of Michigan.
JOHN EGERTON:
The book is out?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I don't think it's published, but he has a paper and whether he's offering it or not I don't know but I can put you in touch. He did this analysis of these same forces and in particular the role that Margaret Anderson, as editor of Common Ground, how she worked on that issue and utilized Lillian Smith and me in the process to do it. George Mitchell, he was my boss and you were asking about a foot in both camps thing. Mitchell was very active in the Southern Regional Council even before he became director. Through him, I was his sort of right hand man, so I felt myself to be a . . . And Clark Foreman, I don't know his name doesn't appear along with [Jim] Dombrowski's anymore. He was a major force in the Southern Conference.

Page 30
JOHN EGERTON:
We were talking a while ago about what other white people you could identify, do you think of Foreman and Dombrowski. . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
I was going to say about my role on those things before we leave it. At the New Orleans convention of the Southern Conference there was a very strident Communist delegation there, I was told, and they were on to some particular civil rights case and they had like a ten page resolution they wanted to introduce. I believe both Clark Foreman and Jim Dombrowski came to me and said— Southern Exposure was already published at that time—anyway they felt that if I came up with less strident shorter resolution everyone would be happy. So they asked me to do that and I did it. So I was frequently called on to play roles of that nature.
JOHN EGERTON:
And indeed, I'm sure there were other people who had some connection with the two, although a little later on the Southern Conference itself split into two groups. That was when Anne Braden and Carl Braden pretty much became the driving force behind the Southern Conference Education Fund and Southern Conference for Human Welfare pretty much went out of existence.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I forget now all of the reasons for that.
JOHN EGERTON:
It was a big personality thing involving Dombrowski and Foreman.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I didn't know whether it was politics, personality or both.
JOHN EGERTON:
I think it was more personality than politics but it no doubt included both.

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STETSON KENNEDY:
Foreman came to me after Southern Exposure and wanted to hire me to ghost write one for him. There was a woman, I forget her name, she was a Jewish woman in Philadelphia, and she was going to do clerical work and I was going to call it Moneybags and Scalawags. That's about as far as it got, he didn't have the money.
JOHN EGERTON:
Thinking about the white people in the 40's up to the time that Southern Exposure came out or maybe even up to election of '48, besides yourself and Lillian Smith, who else was taking a direct, frontal, anti-Jim Crow position?
STETSON KENNEDY:
I started a list for you this morning and it didn't get very far and it's in pencil form.
JOHN EGERTON:
I had trouble getting very far with that list.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, I try to think in terms of organizations, journals, and individuals. The bells that started ringing were in the very early days of the 30's. There was a man called Harold Preece, I don't know the politics of any of these people anymore. Real bony, scrawny, hayseed looking fellow but a lot of heart.
JOHN EGERTON:
Can you place him someplace?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Oh, yes, with a little research you could track all this down. He's in the 30's and he's deep South, maybe Florida.
JOHN EGERTON:
Writing?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yes, and do you know about a Southern News Almanac? Some of it is in my papers at GSU [Georgia State University] and some of it's at Schomberg. But the Southern News Almanac . . . in other words if you get in the papers you'll find the

Page 32
individuals and vice versa. Southern News Almanac, I wrote for it and Preece wrote for it. There was a fellow named Virgil Conner, editor of the Apopka Chief, well, he's alive and in Tallahassee. I saw that he was alive and doing something in Tallahassee in government. I wrote to him and either he didn't get it or didn't reply. We were fairly close in those days. In Florida there's a fellow named Francis P. Coe. In the Florida Historical Quarterly recently within the past year there's been a definitive profile on Coe.
JOHN EGERTON:
Called the Southern News Digest?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Southern News Almanac.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you know where it was published?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Alabama, I think Birmingham. You'll find it in my papers at GSU and Schomberg or both and I don't know where else. These were really pioneering things and I mentioned Coe the Apopka Chief.
JOHN EGERTON:
Thomas Sancton, is that a name? From Jackson, Mississippi, he wrote for the New Republic. He's on this group right here, do you know anything about him?
STETSON KENNEDY:
If I'm not mistaken one of those gentlemen said something caustic about the black press given to voodoo ads and things like that. I think it was Sancton who hit the floor and said the white press was in no position to talk about the black press because the black press had meant a lot to him and it helped him in his career.

Page 33
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, that would have been a position he would have taken. I'm curious about him, I can't find out much about him. I really hadn't run it out to the end.
STETSON KENNEDY:
You, of course, know about Lucy Randolph Mason, but no one to my knowledge has done a job on the role she played. I can tell you a lot of personal firsthand things because I spent many hours working with her, getting organizers out of jail and so on. All of her papers are at Chapel Hill somewhere?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes. Helen Fuller is a name on this list. Does that ring a bell? She was the washington correspondent of the New Republic and she was in Birmingham. Could she have had something to do with this almanac?
STETSON KENNEDY:
No, you can find it all in the masthead and you can send it back to me and it may ring some bells. I was something of a protege of Helen Fuller's. I wrote rather many editorials and other things for The New Republic. They called me their southern corespondent for awhile. There was a Mrs. M. E. Tilly, do you have material on her? I think she's very much worth pursuing.
JOHN EGERTON:
Jesse Daniel Ames, she was head of the group to abolish lynching. She spent a lot of time on that score and by most accounts she was the person who persuaded the two black guys in Richmond and Norfolk to organize that Durham conference where they wrote their manifesto. By at least three accounts, I found, including one of Gordon Hancock, who was one of the organizers of that, that she came to them and said it's time for this to happen

Page 34
and why don't you guys get a group together and get something down on paper and make white people respond to it.
But even there she had a sort of ulterior motive in a sense; she worked for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the commission was on a downward spiral. The person who headed it [Will Alexander] had gone to work for the New Deal and left Mrs. Ames and a woman named Emily Clay running the office in Atlanta. Nothing happening and what's-his-name from Chapel Hill [Howard Odum] was trying to organize SRC by some means that would do away with the interracial commission and so apparently Mrs. Ames, as much to undercut Howard Odum as anything else, went to Gordon Hancock and said the Commission on Interracial Cooperation ought to be doing this. But it's not doing it it's moribund, and what's coming on the horizon is Howard Odum's version, and it's not going to be very much focused on race as an issue. Somebody's got to press their feet to the fire or else they'll never do anything and you guys better get it cranked up and do it, and they did.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I had, in the mid 30's at Gainesville, The University of Florida, we had a chapter of the American Student Union, of course, there were no blacks or coeds there in those days. I decided that the situation called for organizing an intercollegiate Florida Peace Council to embrace the black colleges in the state. We were not able to have interracial meetings on the white campuses so we went to the black colleges and even there it was rather sub rosa, the whole thing. As far as I know on the college level, it was the first of the

Page 35
interracial things there and that was mid 30's. We met at Edward Waters and Bethune Cookman [black colleges].
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you know Howard Kester through this time?
STETSON KENNEDY:
No, while I say I don't, I'm looking at his picture and so on and I must have seen all these people in Atlanta off and on and in Chattanooga and wherever I went. It just occurs to me when saying Chattanooga, and we talked earlier about the climate, there was an editorial in either your Nashville Tennessean or it may have been the Chattanooga paper entitled OBH vs. KKK. OBH stands for Order of Bleeding Hearts. The editorialist couldn't decide which was worse the KKK or the OBH.
JOHN EGERTON:
It could have been the Tennessean or it easily could have been The Banner in those days. Even the Tennessean as I have subsequently discovered they just weren't there.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Typical attitude. If you get over onto the role of the CIO and the race relations thing, you might want the name of R. E. Starnes, Georgia, steelworker, still alive. He was rank and file, you know, carrying the ball in the rank and file and trying to get blacks and whites unionists to behave themselves in the union meetings and to join the union and whatnot. He did a lot of philosophizing, typical semiliterate Georgia boy. His own personal transformation would be significant, the manner in which he worked it out for himself and then tried to get others to follow suit. He was a poet but not quite as good as Don West. I have a sheet with his stuff upstairs including some on race.
[George] Mitchell, for example, you asked about Mitchell and race. When they started having interracial meetings at 75 Ivy

Page 36
Street, at CIO headquarters in Atlanta, Mitchell came out of his office and he first saw that for the first meetings the blacks all sat in the rear and the whites in front. Then we did something but I forget what we did exactly, and the result was that the blacks sat on one side and whites sat on the other. We put out heads together and jumbled the chairs so it was just a mass of chairs out there, no aisles in any direction. The result was that the people just sat down in whatever was nearest and we achieved integration that way.
Someone in the dead of night came in that period and installed a piece of pipe out from the drinking fountain and made an adjunct fountain, three feet away from the other fountain, a smaller fountain, lower down. Everyone got the idea that the big one was for whites and other one was for blacks. This was a union job. Some union did that without our knowledge. Then someone came in under the cover of darkness and disconnected the adjunct. That's how the unions were integrated, little things like that.
JOHN EGERTON:
As you went through that time, do you think you developed a sense of fatalism or optimism or pessimism? What happened to your long term sense of where this was headed? Or did you even think about that?
STETSON KENNEDY:
Well, we haven't mention Thurgood Marshall and in this same period he was annually going back to the Supreme Court and pounding on the gates and not taking no for an answer on separate but equal. So the NAACP was pursuing the matter on that front and at the same time the rest of us were doing these other

Page 37
things. So the CIO was in the field with its pragmatic approach to the thing. There were voices like Lillian Smith. Southern Exposure, it might be important to you with what you're doing. I saved all the reviews of Southern Exposure at the time. I've just recently written something explaining that I never did intend to be a writer, I became a writer simply to call attention to things and hopefully bring about change. So the writing was just a means to an end. I wasn't after a literary career and I didn't give a damn what the literary critics had to say about what I wrote. I wanted to impact in other quarters and sure enough people like Governor Arnold reviewed it for the New York Times. I was getting that kind of impact which was very much what I wanted. He, of course, sat down and wrote one of his own.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you take hope from that? Your book got good reviews, you caused other people to write books. Here's a governor of a deep South state . . .
STETSON KENNEDY:
All these old cliches about raising a standard, I had a hope that my chapter on total equality, in particular, was something of a standard. Once the white South had forced itself to read it even that was a step in itself. From that point of view, yes. In terms of immediate effect, you had the black newspapers also pounding on the gates all during World War II and talking about what they expected when it was over.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think of yourself as basically an optimistic human being? Obviously, this is hard, long-time work. It's easy to get discouraged. We could probably name a lot of white people who had those thoughts at one time or another but they eventually

Page 38
got up and left, they walked off, went away, got tired, discouraged.
STETSON KENNEDY:
It never occurred to me to give up on any of these things. I don't have any intention of ever doing that. But the reality, of course, is that the end of apartheld in America is a very much worthwhile development, comparable to slavery. So, with all the dark corners that still remain, the black ghettos still remain and all the gross mass discrimination that exists in race, apartheld itself, except for the ghetto, is hopefully gone for good. If that were the only accomplishment of the country, it got rid of slavery in one century and segregation in the next century, a long century between.
I'm not at all optimistic about current trends. I think there has been a deliberate, just as there was a deliberate nationwide conspiracy in 1876 and the years leading up to 1876, to put the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments and even to some extent the thirteenth amendment on slavery to make them dead letters by means, primarily, of klan terrorism. That was accomplished and the North acquiesced in it and it persisted for a hundred years before blacks started to vote again and get their civil rights which those Civil War amendments promised them at the time. It demonstrates that not only civil rights laws but Constitutional amendments and sections of the Bill of Rights can be dead letters.
I think that we at the present time are confronted by a conspiracy to set aside and negate much that the civil rights legislation has accomplished. If this is being done on all

Page 39
levels, the executive, the legislative, and perhaps above all the judiciary. And on our lower level, the school boards and local administrations, so that in my opinion, school boards all over the country have deliberately bused black and white students not to the nearest school but usually to the ends of the earth, so to speak, so that the children would leave in the dark and come home in the dark hysterical. This would make their parents likewise hysterical. Blacks and whites almost equally were opposed to busing for that reason.
In reality, there was no necessity for that sort of busing pattern. The intention, in my opinion, was to raise the standard of neighborhood schools and entice people to go back into segregated schooling. If that happens, in my opinion, it will mean possibly another century of second-class educational opportunities for blacks, a postponement of the masses of blacks getting into the mainstream.
One of the other areas: we have the token black for awhile in business and public affairs, and the token black has given way to a token black middle-class, and that's a degree of progress. But in my estimation the black masses are as bad off or possibly worse off than they have been in recent memory. So, we got all these bits of unfinished business on the agenda and where they are going to end up I don't know. One doesn't see immediately. There's no Southern Conference for Human Welfare in the field and the Southern Regional Council is still with us but I don't think it's thinking or talking in these terms and I don't know who is,

Page 40
including black leadership, by and large—Jesse Jackson a possible exception, and a few others.
In my opinion, the size of those problems and the urgency of them is at least as alarming as what we were facing back in the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. As for optimism, no, I'm gratified by what's been done and alarmed by what hasn't been done and all the back sliding that has taken place.
The environmental thing . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
You get off the race thing and onto the other and you get even more depressed.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yes, I've been saying. . . . If we get the greenhouse effect, the black and white question will be moot. It may be that only the blacks can survive and stand the heat and we whites will just have to get off the map and let them have it. I keep thinking that sort of approach might stir whites into doing something, not wanting to relinquish it all to the colored people.
JOHN EGERTON:
Have you managed somehow in all of this to raise a family of your own? Do you have children?
STETSON KENNEDY:
It's hard not only on the individual who's doing this sort of thing, it's not something you can recommend as a vocation, but also equally hard on family. No, they've suffered you might say equally with me. It's been a hand to mouth thing all the way.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you have grown children?

Page 41
STETSON KENNEDY:
I just had one son as a matter of fact. I've been married from time to time to women who've already had children of their own. So they've all had to pay the price.
JOHN EGERTON:
You know, it would be easy to sit out here on this deck and watch the osprey, sip a little wine, sunrise, sunset. Don't turn on the TV or the radio, don't read the newspapers. It would seem like a pretty good life.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Except that you'd bait that hook there and you'd find that the fish have sores on them, ulcerating sores, from the acid rain.
JOHN EGERTON:
And if you go to the supermarket to buy your food then you're going to get all processed stuff that's chemical.
STETSON KENNEDY:
The trends in the environment are such that I keep saying if you ever run across a positive one to call me collect. It's just a question of which one is going to do us in. Seriously, I'm planning to put a structure out on the highway there and label it Part Two and see what happens.
JOHN EGERTON:
I'm afraid you'd have a lot of takers.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I'm thinking of adding to it that women. . . . The sperm bank would be announced later. Anything to get people thinking about such things.
I gather from the questions you are asking me that you're going to locate other people and do the same. The only problem is finding living survivors of that period.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's really a hard problem. When I think of the blacks in particular, there's practically nobody. If I go down the list of blacks, Charles S. Johnson, Hancock and P.B. Young

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and a guy named John McCray was a black writer for the newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. He wrote some real tough stuff, real good stuff.
STETSON KENNEDY:
I wrote for the Associated Negro Press.
JOHN EGERTON:
You know better than most what those papers did and who those people were and practically everyone of them are dead now. I'm going to be really hard put to find very many blacks who were alive and active in this whole period. I don't think I can confine it to living people. You know, I'm not really doing an oral history, if I did I'm too late. I waited too late to do an oral history. Frank Porter Graham is gone and Lucy Mason is gone, Lillian Smith's gone, Clark Foreman's gone. You are a survivor now, one of the few.
STETSON KENNEDY:
Yes, I was younger than they were. You want to come upstairs? There may be some things up there that I had started.
END OF INTERVIEW