Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Author: Lewis, Hylan, 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 Steve Weiss and Aaron Smithers
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 168 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 Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991. Interview A-0361. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0361)
Author: John Egerton
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991. Interview A-0361. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0361)
Author: Hylan Lewis
Description: 230 Mb
Description: 49 p.
Note: Interview conducted on January 13, 1991, by John Egerton; recorded in New York, New York.
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.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as "
All em dashes are encoded as —

Interview with Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991.
Interview A-0361. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Lewis, Hylan, interviewee


Interview Participants

    HYLAN LEWIS, interviewee
    JOHN EGERTON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
HYLAN LEWIS:
My first visit to Atlanta was about 1935 or maybe a little bit earlier. I was at Howard and I was working with Abram Harris and Ed Lewis in the economics department. I had just finished a year of graduate work at the University of Chicago.
JOHN EGERTON:
In sociology?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Sociology and economics, yes. Then I went to work with Abram Harris and I did the statistical work on The Negro as Capitalist, one of the earlier books that Abram did. I also taught courses in the economics department at that time as an assistant, so, as both colleagues and friends of Abram Harris and Ed Lewis.
Ed Lewis is an economist who has done a considerable amount of work on rural economics. He had never been South. He's from London. He was a person who had polio. So, we cooked up a trip to. . . . I was going to introduce him to the South. We bought a secondhand car.
JOHN EGERTON:
In a way it was your own introduction?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No, at that time I had lived in Virginia. It was my own introduction to the deep South, but I knew the South. I had lived in Hampton, Richmond, in fact, I went to school in Richmond.
JOHN EGERTON:
Malcolm x said one time, "The South is anywhere South of the Canadian border."

Page 2
HYLAN LEWIS:
That's correct, if you are black. [laughter] I knew Washington. So, anyway, Ed and I with our little 1935 or '33 Ford Roadster, which was good at oil burning—we drove and after making other stops we wound up in Atlanta. We went on from there to Mississippi and came back up to New England and so on.
That summer, summer school was in session, and it so happened that Atlanta University was kind of a mecca at that time and even later. For students, particularly doing not only undergraduate but graduate work as well in the various [social science] disciplines. Billy Geeter, names you probably know, Ann Cook Reed, who later married Ira Reed, they were there. They conducted a very important and well-known theater repertory. John Mack Brown was there. Also, there were people who were visitors there. Sterling Brown was there that summer and Harold Lewis. I remembered because we had a wonderful time with this group of people in Atlanta. The things that I remember, the comraderie, but also the kinds of paradox which grew out of the fact of this oasis, this very stimulating oasis there which was Atlanta University and Spelman College.
I remember we would spend our evenings sometimes just getting in the car and riding up. These little vignettes would stick in your mind, again, I mention the paradoxes here. We would drive out into rural Georgia and park the car at one of these little taverns or roadhouses or we would go in and get beer. Again, in the Georgia which is the Georgia of [inaudible]. I had been in Atlanta before that. I had been in Atlanta for the

Page 3
Department of Labor which is another thing which I will mention about my coming in there. We can come back to that. From Washington and Richmond, working for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the cost of living study later on. I had government vouchers and I would go up into the. . . . If you remember that period, I don't know whether you remember, but in order for me to get pullman or sleeping car arrangements I had to into the "white waiting room." So, I walked in there with my friend Fisher, who was a Mormon from Utah, just as naive as you could be. I said, "Look, be careful." I said, "I don't know what kind of [inaudible] you have in my luggage and so on. So, I walked into the white waiting room and walked up to the counter. This little cop said, "What are you doing here?" I turned and very quietly said, "I'm getting accommodations, I have government orders here." I used the word government and he didn't know how to handle that. He walked back and stood and watched me the whole time.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was that a practice that worked to say I have government orders here?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Well, it's such an unusual thing that you would use any leverage, and I did. It worked in the sense that this person was not used to that, he didn't know it and it was enough to throw him off. This worked both ways. We will have a rambling conversation if you ask these kinds of questions.
To give you another point of that particular picture, that same trip with Ed Lewis, I took an examination for junior social economist in New Orleans at the customs house. That is where it

Page 4
was held. It was to be held in Washington but I got it transferred there. It was out of that that I got this later appointment. But, the point is that when this group ofinterviewers left Washington we met in the Labor Department there. I will never forget this guy's name, administrator, Fitzgerald. He said to me particularly, he said, "Look, you're going South, you are traveling with the government but in a sense you are on your own." This is diverting but if you want to get into these little vineyards and what the South was like and my particular, really interesting, kind of ventures that involved me as a young college graduate. I was lucky enough to have a great variety of kinds of experiences. Again, when you talk about, as you know so well, one of the aspects of living and coping is the dealing with the paradoxes.
JOHN EGERTON:
The inconsistencies and learning how to play the game.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Precisely, but there again, they are part of the picture. They make the system work so to speak. In any situation where there were rules and pretend rules. Again, how do you do it, who does it, what happens?
JOHN EGERTON:
Had you gone to Howard as an undergraduate?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No.
JOHN EGERTON:
Where did you go?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I went to undergraduate at Virginia Union University in Richmond. I taught at Howard. I went to Howard to work with Abram Harris.
JOHN EGERTON:
After you finished Virginia Union did you go to Chicago then?

Page 5
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, I had a Social Science Research Council Fellowship. One of the first again to stick with the South. Ah, another paradox. The Social Science Research Council at that time, by dint of the urging of Charles S. Johnson, established a special set of fellowships for the South. Charles Johnson was a student of [Robert] Park in Chicago. Charles Johnson was a member of the board of the Social Science Research Council for New York. They had a big fellowship program. But, Charles Johnson was able to get them to establish a special program for southern students, the disadvantaged southerners. He didn't say black or white, but just that the South was disadvantaged. The first set of fellowships, graduate fellowships, under that aegis, there were three of us from Virginia Union, a student from Fisk, and Sarah Alice Mayfield from Birmingham Southern, who later on married Stuart Weiss, and we all wound up at the University of Chicago. That's another story.
JOHN EGERTON:
That would have been in the 20s.
HYLAN LEWIS:
No, I finished in '32, so this would have been in '33.
JOHN EGERTON:
You finished at Union in '32.
HYLAN LEWIS:
The fellowship was established in 1932. It indicates something about what the times were like and it indicates something too about the fact and the perception of the South and the beginnings of higher education. Again, the South was beginning to get Huey Long, you have Frank Graham and you have . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Things going on down there . . .

Page 6
HYLAN LEWIS:
When North Carolina gets to be known and honored because it has some of the best roads of the South.
JOHN EGERTON:
That has something to do with it.
HYLAN LEWIS:
These are the kinds of things, this is the South of shacks and you're still in the tobacco road tradition. It was a South of interest. A lot of things happened on that trip that Ed Lewis and I made, not only in Atlanta but also in Mississippi.
JOHN EGERTON:
If you went to Chicago in '32 how long were you there?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I was there at the University of Chicago on the Social Science Research Council Fellowship. . . . The munificent sum of $1,000 which permitted me to pay tuition, pay room and board and actually the Depression struck and all the banks were closed. I was able to lend my landlord, who was charging me the magnificent sum of $20 a month . . . . [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
You actually had money in your pocket.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I had money. I remember the attempted assassination of the mayor of Chicago. I spent that year there, 1932—'33, I spent three quarters there and my money was beginning to run out. Virginia Union asked me to come and teach summer school. I went back to teach summer school. It was after teaching summer school that I teamed up with Abe Harris at Howard.
JOHN EGERTON:
It was the summer of '33.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I taught the summer of '33.
JOHN EGERTON:
Then you went to Atlanta with Harris in the fall?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No, not Harris. It was Ed Lewis. It would have been, I guess, '34, the next summer.
JOHN EGERTON:
The following summer.

Page 7
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, the following summer. I worked at Howard that year so it was '34.
JOHN EGERTON:
You were just a young guy then, twenty-three, twenty-four years old.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Right.
JOHN EGERTON:
A couple years into the New Deal and you had your introduction to the South and the deeper South and to Chicago and you're beginning to spread out. Lots of things happening.
HYLAN LEWIS:
In Washington and in Chicago and in Richmond.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you by chance remember election day in 1932?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, I was in Chicago.
JOHN EGERTON:
You would have been there in November '32.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I remember Roosevelt.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you have any sense that this was a sea change for America and for blacks in particular?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Oh, yes. I think, again, it was sea change in the sense that one had this sense and in some ways the realization, expectation that something important is happening. Of course, the cue comes with the fact that Roosevelt was able to pick other coalitions at which those blacks who could vote and could express themselves politically really sought to move away from the legacy of the Republican party. That was important. I think it was also important that things were happening. We had a Depression, people were out of work, ‘Buddy, can you spare a dime?’ Blacks and whites were feeling the pinch and so on. Roosevelt had a presence and an aura, an aura about him, which said, ‘happy days are here again." I think, for me at least, again you are talking

Page 8
about youngsters. When you are young, I don't remember personally any hardship.
JOHN EGERTON:
But they didn't impinge upon you.
HYLAN LEWIS:
In that sense of depressing me or. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Your family was in Washington?
HYLAN LEWIS:
At that time both my mother and father were dead.
JOHN EGERTON:
By then they were?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Oh, yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
You were on your own?
HYLAN LEWIS:
More or less. One of the problems that we are going to have is that you mention something and it triggers something else.
JOHN EGERTON:
By the time you got out of Virginia Union you were on your own. You were pretty much . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Well, on my own in a sense, I think the longer you live, especially as a kid, you think you are on your own. But in retrospect you know how damn lucky you are because there has to be somebody there. I didn't have any fear or compunction about venturing whether it's professional or personal. A lot of that relates to me, myself, personally what kinds of things develops . . . .
You were asking about the Depression and the [inaudible]. Again, I was very fortunate because I knew what the Depression was in the Chicago context. I knew what it meant to be related to people who went to put people back in the houses after they had been evicted. I knew what was happening with the communist

Page 9
and the would-be communist. I knew about the labor situation. Also, I was in Washington where I was at Howard.
JOHN EGERTON:
You went to Howard in '34?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No, I went to Howard in '33. I went there in the summer of '33 to work for Abe Harris
JOHN EGERTON:
Straight out of Chicago you went.
HYLAN LEWIS:
After I taught that summer at Virginia Union I went. . . . Abe Harris was working on this book and I was a youngster and I had some experience in social economics and at that time, strangely enough, I knew a bit about statistics, I knew how to work a calculating machine. [inaudible]. Washington was. . . . Even now I'm interested in writing. I remember one time when I was a youngster. My uncle by marriage at one time, when the Klu Klux Klan had a presence and they published a newspaper and their public editorial offices were in Washington. I had an uncle who worked for them.
JOHN EGERTON:
You did?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes. [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
Really?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Right. He was an uncle by marriage.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you know him? Did you have a relationship with him?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Sure.
JOHN EGERTON:
What in the hell did you say to him?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I was a kid. I was ten or eleven years old or maybe fourteen, fifteen or sixteen. It was in the 20s. I didn't go to Hampton. I landed in Old Point Comfort on the way to Hampton,

Page 10
Virginia, getting off the Washington-Norfolk boat on April 7, 1924. That was three days after my thirteenth birthday. I remember that very well. My first words were as I got off the boat—I was going to stay with this family that I had never seen before—I said, "My, I see you have some colonial architecture here," as they came on the boat. If you know the Old Point Comfort area, the old fortress monument is striking.
JOHN EGERTON:
You had come down there on a boat?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, on the Washington to Norfolk boat. You're too young to remember that.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes. I should have realized there was a ferry service.
HYLAN LEWIS:
The boat service, you had a New York to Florida boat, you had a lots of boats. You were born in '35?
JOHN EGERTON:
I was born in '35. How long did you stay at Howard?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Well, again, my Howard career. I worked with Abe Harris. When the Labor Department called—I passed the exam—I went to work with on the cost of living study for them in Richmond and in Mississippi. I took leave from Howard at that time. I went back to Howard and of course at the time Charles Johnson was in the field doing some of his studies which later on became the Shadows of the Plantation. He wanted me to go with him but I turned him down and went back to Howard.
In 1935, [E. Franklin] Frazier was coming to Howard. Frazier came to Howard in '35 but I was in the economics department. I helped him to get settled and oriented and so on. That's another story. Later on, as he was developing the department, he asked me to. . . . I moved into the sociology

Page 11
department working with Frazier as an instructor in sociology. Then I went back to Chicago. See, I left Chicago before I took my MA. So, I took my MA in '36. I was an instructor at Howard until 1939, when I got the first of two Rosenwald fellowships. I was away at the University of Chicago for two years from '39 . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
To get your doctorate?
HYLAN LEWIS:
To get my doctorate, yes, which I didn't get until later because I left again to work at the War board . . . I left Howard, resigned Howard, to go to Talladega, Alabama. Buell Gallagher came to see me and he made an offer to me that I couldn't refuse. Everybody thought it was unheard of, anybody leaving Washington to go to Talledega. My colleagues said, "why are you going there? Are you going to be president?" But, it was one of the most stimulating and important teaching experiences I had.
JOHN EGERTON:
How long did you stay there?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I was with Gallagher, I stayed there—this was 1939-1941.
JOHN EGERTON:
Two year's.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Not even two years. The War broke out. When the War broke out the OWI, Ralph Bunch and (I can't think of the guy's name) they called me to Washington. There were two jobs and one was with the Office of War Information and the other was to take a commission in the Army, Army intelligence. I interviewed with the guy there in Washington, in the offices there—Social Science Research council. I guess it was Donald Young and he was looking

Page 12
to decide which job, and after talking with me he knew I was not Army material. [laughter] So, Bill Bryant, I mentioned, a federal judge, got the Army spot. I took the OWI spot. I worked with OWI throughout the War and the Bureau of the Budget very briefly. Then Ralph Bridgman, who at that time, post war, became president of Hampton, came scouting around and he made me an offer which I didn't refuse because I wanted to go back into teaching.
JOHN EGERTON:
In '45 and stayed there how long?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I left Hampton in '47 and did a study in South Carolina. Black Ways of Kent came out of that. Do you know that book?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, I do.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I did that in '48. From there I went to Atlanta to teach. I went to Atlanta to teach even before then because I was in New York after Hampton, and I went to the oyster bar one day and Ira Reed—he looked up and it was like he discovered gold—he was going on leave and got somebody to teach at NYU, some place, and said, "come on and teach for me at Atlanta." I taught at Atlanta that summer in '47 or '48. That was a remarkable summer too. After teaching there Mozelle Hill was there and so they wanted me to come back to Atlanta. I went back to Atlanta.
JOHN EGERTON:
How long did you stay?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I stayed there. . . . In '54 I had a Ford Foundation Fellowship. In '56, I guess, I spent at Chapel Hill. I went back to Atlanta very briefly. Again, another offer I couldn't refuse, The Unitarian Service Committee in Boston. I set some

Page 13
things up for them there in Atlanta. You probably know that story. You were probably in Atlanta at that time.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, but I was in . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Well, that's another whole story in itself.
JOHN EGERTON:
Just in this period of my focus now from the early 30s to the mid 50s we have sort of staked you down at certain places. You moved around a lot. You were frequently on the move.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, but, I was in and out of Atlanta, but in a full sense from December '48 and then '48 to '55. About seven or eight years.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, until about the mid 50s.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Then I went back down to Washington. I did the Child Hearing Study in Washington.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me go back now that I know where you were and ask you about some of the people out of this time. First of all, I'm trying to identify some people who I'm not sure are dead or alive. Two of them are mentioned in one of these papers of yours and that is the Davises.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Which Davises?
JOHN EGERTON:
John P.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Johnny P. is dead.
JOHN EGERTON:
Johnny was a lawyer and John A. was . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
In political science, he's alive. Johnny P. and I knew each other quite well because we wrote . . . . At the time I was with the OWI he had Our World and later he was a newspaper guy. He was in and out. Ted Poston, I would see him everyday.
JOHN EGERTON:
Ted Poston is another guy I wanted to ask you about.

Page 14
HYLAN LEWIS:
He's dead.
JOHN EGERTON:
He came from Kentucky, twenty miles of where I spent my growing-up years, Hopkinsville.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Hopkinsville, revolt of the evil fairies.
JOHN EGERTON:
He must have been an interesting guy. I would have liked to have known him.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes. I used to see Ted everyday. My office was right down the hall from Ted. I would always go down there.
JOHN EGERTON:
How long has he been dead?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Ted has been dead maybe fifteen years. Ted was on the board [inaudible] research center here and he was in his declining state then. I would say somewhere between twelve and fifteen years.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Roy Ottley?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Roy's dead.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you know him well?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Didn't know him, just in passing.
JOHN EGERTON:
Kind of a fascinating figure with just the little bit I know about him.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Lomax was another who was a journalist in your time. What others can you think of who were in the field of journalism who were interested in the South?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Ernie Johnson.
JOHN EGERTON:
Where was he?
HYLAN LEWIS:
He was in and out of Washington. Then there were the Chicago Defender, Enoch Waters.

Page 15
JOHN EGERTON:
Robert Vann, did you know Robert Vann from Pittsburgh?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I wouldn't say I knew him, he was older than me. When I received the Social Science Research Council Fellowship I went to Chicago by bus and I stopped off in Pittsburgh and stayed with friends. It happened that night—again, the campaign was on—I went down in September of 1932, I went to the Y on Wiley Street and they were in a campaign and Vann spoke. I will never forget what he said, he said, "you Republican hogs have been in the trough long enough, it's time to let us Democratic hogs get in there." [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
He was quite an interesting guy.
HYLAN LEWIS:
He was quite a figure, yes. I knew him and I knew Patterson.
JOHN EGERTON:
Robert Vann and Vann Woodward come from the same eastern North Carolina history.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I didn't know that.
JOHN EGERTON:
I came across a piece that Robert Vann wrote for a little local history in that rural county in North Carolina in the 50s, in which he described his growing-up years there with a very touching affection for that time and place. He was not one to mince words. He could lay it out pretty well.
HYLAN LEWIS:
He was quite a character.
JOHN EGERTON:
Another guy that I got interested in and I wonder if you ever had any contact with, was an editor of a small black weekly in Columbia, South Carolina, named John McCray?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I know the name but I didn't know him.
JOHN EGERTON:
That guy was dynamite. His stuff was . . .

Page 16
HYLAN LEWIS:
You had quite a few from Columbia, South Carolina and North Carolina are small papers which were very important.
JOHN EGERTON:
The academics out of this time I kind of classify in three groups. The ones outside the South is one group.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Ask me and I will try to find it for you. There's another piece which you might be interested in which I have done. I will try to find it for you, "Invisible Blacks of the North."
JOHN EGERTON:
I would love to see that. I was going to ask you about. . . . The administrators were a group, Charles Johnson and Benny Mays and Hancock.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Hancock was one of my teachers. When you read that you will get some insight. There is a book on Hancock.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes there is and a good one at that.
HYLAN LEWIS:
"Gordon the Gloomy Dean." Do you know that story?
JOHN EGERTON:
No, I don't know that story.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Well, Hancock at that time, this is again in the late 20s and 30s when Dean Enge of England—this is before your time—was known as the "gloomy Dean" because he was pessimistic. Hancock was an actor in a very idiosyncratic way, talking and personalizing so many things. There were very famous debates between Hancock and Rayford Logan, well, that's another story. But, he would come in and say, "ah, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Lewis, see the papers this morning, see the papers this morning? They called me the ‘gloomy Dean’, they called me the ‘gloomy Dean'. They say all the Deans are gloomy now." He used to make the speeches about [inaudible]. He would say, "Mr. Lewis, negroes in the

Page 17
North are pulling the lion's tail and negroes in the South got their heads in the lion's mouth." [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
He felt pretty strongly about that, didn't he?
HYLAN LEWIS:
You also had George Schuyler's the "Triumvirate of Timidity." [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
Who was Miller?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Miller from Howard, Kelly Miller.
JOHN EGERTON:
There was always this undercurrent of debate and contention about what constituted better strategy, didn't it?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, but you see, this again, depends on where you were. Virginia Union at that time was very important. Virginia Union, Lincoln University, Morehouse and some of the others. . . . Virginia Union had a very great heritage, Abram Harris, [inaudible] Owens, and the linkage between the northern Baptists, Virginia Union, and the tradition of debate and people like Charles Johnson, [inaudible], Harris, [inaudible] Owen, and Charles Thompson, they were all Union men. You had Logan to go up there and [inaudible] Jones so that you had in the twenties was something like Atlanta, where you had, interesting even the great, great, great indications of independence and contests and progress. I remember the dentist, this man was a dentist, he had some colleagues and this is in the twenties. Salesmen would come and sit down and say, "what are you boys doing today?" They literally took the guy up and threw him down the steps.
JOHN EGERTON:
Would you say that Virginia Union more than Hampton? I mean Hampton didn't have this tradition? Tuskegee didn't have it? what about Fisk?

Page 18
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Is it an urban rural thing partly? Does that enter into it? Is it easier in an urban setting for people to be more . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
It's easier, yes, but that was not the main factor. Talladega had it.
JOHN EGERTON:
Talladega had it. It's people then, isn't it?
HYLAN LEWIS:
It's people, it's people.
JOHN EGERTON:
Name them for me, Howard, Fisk, Virginia Union, Talladega—where were the really good places? where was the ferment?
HYLAN LEWIS:
What period are you talking?
JOHN EGERTON:
In this period we are discussing, the early 30s and into the 40s.
HYLAN LEWIS:
If you are talking the 30s you're talking when the number of schools which had fairly solid pretention to be colleges, dared [inaudible] they were schools which for the main part, private schools, which came out of the American Missionary Association and northern Baptist background.
JOHN EGERTON:
Maybe a little Methodist?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Methodist in some, yes. The state schools were Johnny come lately.
JOHN EGERTON:
They were not part of it.
HYLAN LEWIS:
You had a number of junior colleges which were mixed and some were church related. If you are talking the period of

Page 19
the 20s and 30s you're talking about Howard, Morehouse, Lincoln, Virginia Union . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Lincoln in Pennsylvania?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, Lincoln in Pennsylvania. These were in the main private institutions. The tradition of Hampton and Tuskegee, it was quite a different linkage in tradition. The kind of discipline, the kind of compromises, everybody makes compromises. For example, I know even when I was at Talladega, one of the famous institutions, I used to go to Tuskegee once in a while and the practicing traditions at that time in context, no negro, no black had ever lived in Dorothy Hall. And the fact that they opened up Dorothy Hall in the 40s was itself a great development. But it was known as not a [inaudible]. The poorest white [inaudible], sharecropper, came along in a wagon and they would put them in there. I personally could never have worked at Tuskegee at that time because [inaudible]. . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Hampton as well?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I worked at Hampton in the 40s and it was different.
JOHN EGERTON:
It was different then?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes. Hampton wasn't even a [inaudible]. Tuskegee was quite different. Although here again, the paradoxes, the Washington-Moton-Patterson tradition. Patterson made a big difference. These were not craven people.
JOHN EGERTON:
I understand.
HYLAN LEWIS:
You have different strengths. There was pride. When I was a student at Virginia Union there was a sense of difference and independence which distinguished us in terms of pride from

Page 20
not only Hampton but also for boast in terms of tradition and position and education as well. Also, Virginia State, which was at a time of rising as a state school.
JOHN EGERTON:
These are very helpful kinds of insights because I'm looking for the genesis of vision and ideas and strategies for change, social change in the South. It's of particular interest and importance to me which of the black colleges and universities provided a lot of that. All you say about Howard here, which I want to get into in a minute, is particularly helpful.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Howard had very little significance for the South that we are talking about now except that some of the people went down South.
JOHN EGERTON:
Here's Hastie and . . . But that's for later.
HYLAN LEWIS:
That's a different level. In a sense we are talking, what we are talking here, one aspect of what you are talking about is that people will . . . Atlanta is a good example of what you are talking about in the 30s.
If you go back to the 3us, does the name Wallace Van Jackson mean anything to you?
JOHN EGERTON:
No, sir. I don't know that name.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Wallace Van Jackson was a librarian at Virginia Union when I was there. Wallace Van Jackson was one of the few persons in the library sense with some reputation so, Atlanta University recruits him. Wallace Van Jackson was one of the first persons to protest the legal and customary ban on Negroes, blacks voting in Atlanta in the 30s. This kind of thing could happen in Atlanta. You could have people doing things in a place like

Page 21
Talladega which were very dangerous, which wouldn't have been done. Again, I would say and even as I talk I have to qualify it, because there were people at Tuskegee, there were people at Hampton who made a difference. Drake was at Hampton the same time I was. Raiph Ellison, Tuskegee.
JOHN EGERTON:
I think I see the distinction.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Again, you have this kind of symbiotic relationship and the question is what prices do you pay in order to make a little dent. At that time, even later, even now, you talk about the college presidents of state schools they were the riding bosses of the plantations. They were agents as much . . . They played a dual role, dual agents. They are agents of the quote, "power structure." There was Hale at Tennessee State, Watson at Arkansas. I used to be able to name. . . . Shepard at North Carolina.
JOHN EGERTON:
It was a coping mechanism.
HYLAN LEWIS:
It was coping but also they were trustworthy and able to keep the natives down.
JOHN EGERTON:
Had to work both sides of the street.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Some did it better than others and some did it with less cynicism. That's another story. But, here again, in that context you could have a Charles Johnson at Fisk, who could do a great number of things which Fisk could do. Hale would never even attempt it for many reasons. You could have a [inaudible] at Talladega and you could have a number of others where you have an oasis but also you had [inaudible]. You also had Mississippi Alcorn, rust and Alcorn, even in those days.

Page 22
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me get to a couple of specific things of incidents or events or issues or whatnot. There was the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham in 1938. Did you have any involvement with that?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No. In '38 I was at Howard.
JOHN EGERTON:
There was a few years later in October of '43, [1942] a meeting in Durham of a group of blacks headed by Hancock and P. B. Young to draw up a manifesto. Did you attend that?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No. I was not in that loop but I knew about it.
JOHN EGERTON:
Out of that Durham meeting came a series of meetings in Richmond and Atlanta that lead to the formation of the Southern Regional Council in '44.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, with George Mitchell. I knew George, Horace Cayton.
JOHN EGERTON:
Talk to me a little bit about some of the people, Ira Reid, Horace Cayton, George Mitchell, Howard Odum, some of the whites and blacks who were instrumental in that period of time just near the end of the War when people were beginning to say or think or wonder whether the end of the War was going to bring an opportunity for a surge forward of social time.
HYLAN LEWIS:
First of all, I think you could separate Horace. Horace and George worked together doing this book on black labor unions.
JOHN EGERTON:
Horace never lived or worked in the South, did he?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No.
JOHN EGERTON:
I'm interested in him but I don't think . . .

Page 23
HYLAN LEWIS:
I knew Horace well. Do you know his book, The Long and Dusty Road?
JOHN EGERTON:
I don't know it. His family background fascinates me and all that Seattle connection and Mississippi connection. He's been dead a long time, hasn't he?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes. Horace died in Paris about twenty years ago. Horace sent me a picture of [inaudible]. He had a grant to go to Paris. While you mention Young, Hancock and so on, but you see here again I think you have to do that, to think and talk generationally. These were a generation of the old guard. This is prior to the transition to the emerging civil rights movement. There are linkages, of course. One of the important stories is how you have the linkage between the old and the new. Atlanta is a very good example of how this occurs because you had the old leadership which had stakes and there were foxes. You are talking foxes and hedgehogs. Then you have the youngsters coming along with no fear and with a sense of "we're going to change it, we're going to live it." So you had energy and courage but you are also astuteness. Persons like Carl Holman, Whitney Young and others. The manner in which . . . . and of course the whites too. Atlanta is one of most extraordinary case histories of this interaction [inaudible] that you could find. Very exciting.
JOHN EGERTON:
One of my extreme temptations in trying to decide how to do this book was to do a book about Atlanta. And you see, I cut for myself a much harder turf and I think I want to reach out

Page 24
and touch it all even if it's only an inch deep rather than to go and burrow down into a deep mine.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I sympathize with you.
JOHN EGERTON:
I'm doing it intentionally because I think if I do this broad thing it maybe will open up a lot of ideas, thoughts, and suggestions for people to go back and mine deep. I'm not going to be the one to do that.
HYLAN LEWIS:
You talked to Bob Thompson, Robert Thompson?
JOHN EGERTON:
I have, in Atlanta. You came to Atlanta in '47.
HYLAN LEWIS:
'47 to '48.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me just pick up at that point. SRC has been formed. Ira Reid is still there at Atlanta U. but getting ready to leave.
HYLAN LEWIS:
You had George and Harold and Charlie Parrish came in from Louisville. Do you have the Charlie Parrish line? C.H. Parrish?
JOHN EGERTON:
I don't much about him but I know who he is.
HYLAN LEWIS:
There was C.H. Parrish and he was very important. He is dead now.
JOHN EGERTON:
From Louisville?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, he was on the faculty at Louisville and he was very active. He spent a year on staff of the Southern Regional Council. C.H. and Harold and John were very . . . He had a staff position even though he was very important in Kentucky interracial. . . . The story here is not so much the men but the women, as you know so well in that period, the southern women.

Page 25
JOHN EGERTON:
Talk about them a little bit.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I know them by name and reputation. I worked with some of them.
JOHN EGERTON:
Mrs. Tilly, Josephine Wilkins, and Lucy Mason, Lillian Smith.
HYLAN LEWIS:
About Lillian Smith, I just happened to be in Montgomery the first anniversary of the march. They had a meeting at the church. I had taught Abernathy, I knew him well. I was there and [Martin Luther] King, and Lillian Smith were supposed to address the conference. She was ill and so they drafted me and I read Lillian Smith's speech for that very first anniversary. That's my Abernathy connection.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you know Lillian Smith?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I had met her, I didn't know her.
JOHN EGERTON:
Were there any black women in this period of time who were . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Grace Hamilton.
JOHN EGERTON:
Sure, of course.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Some of the church women and the lodge women, I'm trying to think of their names now. Here again, a part of the story we are talking about is a story of people that I would call. When I would make speeches I would refer always to what I called the anonymous greats. Every town has its anonymous greats.
JOHN EGERTON:
Nameless, people who were really heroic people.
HYLAN LEWIS:
And they're there, wherever you go.

Page 26
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
HYLAN LEWIS:
Who ran against Eisenhower?
JOHN EGERTON:
Stevenson.
HYLAN LEWIS:
What year was that?
JOHN EGERTON:
'52. In 1950, a kind of a turning point year. Frank Graham was kicked out of the Senate. Claude Pepper lost.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Frank Graham was one of the real beacons.
JOHN EGERTON:
Does he stand up in your eyes?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Oh, gosh, yes. Frank Graham was a man who had . . .only the South produces a Frank Graham [laughter].
JOHN EGERTON:
Elaborate on that a minute.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Extraordinary astute, but he had some of the ‘ole boy’ about him too. Extremely courageous, extremely able to accomplish in terms of the moving, manipulative in a sense. This is a man who almost single-handedly made the difference in terms of Carolina. And he made the difference from his seat as president of the University.
JOHN EGERTON:
When you say only the South produces figures of this type would you include in your explanation of what you mean by that, any sense that these kinds of people, the Frank Grahams of the South, have any better insight or understanding or proximity to the experience of blacks in this program?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, I think of sensitivity, courage and also a kind of marginality. This relates again, there's no accident that the same kinds of urgings which relate to the literature of many southern writers. It relates in some sense too, to this playing

Page 27
and creatively relating to the right of the people and changing these people. I think Graham has that in him. George Mitchell . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
I was going to ask you if you could name any other whites who you felt . . . . Just give me some names of people. Does Lillian Smith fit this statement?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Without question.
JOHN EGERTON:
Will Alexander?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Will, yes, but Will was much more of a conscious, witty. . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Devious?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Conscious witting. [laughter] These others are authentics. Frank Graham you could go to sleep on and wake up on. Will, you might go to sleep but you better wake up early to see what he's doing. [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
I see what you are saying. What about Ralph McGill in this context?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Ralph was one of a kind. An extraordinary man who took seriously his career as a newspaperman but also who took seriously a view of people and their nature. I didn't know him but I suspect that he probably is a person—a failed novelist or writer—who wanted to write to the big column, but never wrote it. I think he had a great facility for testing waters. Ralph is quite different from the Virginia journalists—Dabney, Kilpatrick. Interestingly enough, you had Kentucky, you had Louisville, Richmond and Atlanta in journalism. These are people who in a sense transcended—their journalism was a force.

Page 28
JOHN EGERTON:
Southall Freeman?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Douglas Southall Freeman, yes, in Richmond. There was a great deal of the old South in Douglas Freeman.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you if this sort of characterization rings true to you. If you put virginius Dabney and Ralph McGill on a scale of liberal to conservative over this period of time we're talking about, Dabney starts off in the 30s up here at sort of high liberal and ends up down here as a reactionary. McGill starts off down here at the bottom, pretty conservative guy, but by the time Brown comes along you can go to the bank on McGill.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Absolutely, as I used the words, tested the waters, and with a great deal of courage, and this is why Atlanta was so important. One of the great things about Atlanta is the extent to which there were side doors and windows open. Not back doors but side doors in which people came and went. The point is the difference between the side door and the back door. I think Atlanta probably developed, institutionalized it to an extent.
JOHN EGERTON:
When you think about the South in this period of time Atlanta is always the nexus with everything.
HYLAN LEWIS:
This interesting mixture of businessmen, newspapermen, politicians, church people, and very important, the sense that here is a city with a chance to grow and to be a New York of the South.
JOHN EGERTON:
In a way the mayor of Atlanta sort of characterizes this. He started off pretty conservative. He was a Talmadge man, Hartsfield, and by the time the crunch comes . . .

Page 29
HYLAN LEWIS:
Interestingly enough is the sense that the South par excellence has produced politicians who in some sense were amoral. And this amorality has a kind of spill-over. Amorality means that one can change.
JOHN EGERTON:
Can go either way.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Precisely. This permitted to some extent people. . . . I'm pretty sure there are significant linkages between Talmadge, University of Georgia, the business community and that sort of thing—the trade-offs that occur. And at some point somebody had to say, "look, we've got a university, let's make a good university."
JOHN EGERTON:
Or you take a situation like South Carolina. Strom Thurman could go along at being the Dixicrat candidate for president but could end up—or George wallace getting the black votes because of that very thing. Talmadge was like that.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Absolutely. You see here again so was Huey Long.
JOHN EGERTON:
To some extent you might even say Bilbo was. Although, by the time he got to be an old man had simply gone off the deep end.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Bilbo went off the deep end and he had a kind of mean streak. Many of these guys had mean streaks, but his mean streak had such a nasty aspect which was demeaning.
JOHN EGERTON:
I have a sense that I'm using up a lot of your time here. I'm going to have to leave myself before too long but let me ask you some fairly specific questions. Now that we have discussed this era and both in a personal way have followed your path through it and now have begun to talk about some of the

Page 30
people out of it. Let me ask you some of the questions that I find myself—I don't want to prejudice your answer by saying it but these are beginning to come near to conclusions for me about some of this. For example—I will put it in the form of a question rather than a statement of my own—in this period between the end of the war and the election of 1950 when Frank Graham and Claude Pepper and Ellis Arnall, I mean . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Ellis Arnall, I forgot about him.
JOHN EGERTON:
Arnall's already gone by then but, Jim Folsom leaves the governorship of Alabama in that year.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Arnall is very important.
JOHN EGERTON:
Looking back on that period—five years from the summer of 1945 to the fall of 1950—could you see that period of time, in retrospect at least, as a sort of a window of opportunity for the South to have made some really significant strides to fix its own social wagon, or is that too much wishful thinking?
HYLAN LEWIS:
No, I would say ipso facto in a sense. You said '45 to '50 and you're talking here the end of the War. All that that meant in the suggesting of the terms of the loosening of some of the things. And also of the provision of a kind of wave of medium prosperity and hope and of a sense of the use of governmental and state forces to do things. And what things could you do—highways, roads, houses, education. This is a period when you no longer began to think in terms of unpainted houses in the South. The time when you stopped talking about red clay. So, yes, the answer was that in some. . . . But, it is also the period when you have, you see, the demographic

Page 31
loosening. We often talk about the Negro migration and so on but, it was more than that. That's too mechanical a kind of thing. It represents an opening up and a moving out and a changing of the economics of the area. You've seen their faces and now they are gone, that kind of thing. [laughter] And things are happening to the railroads, too.
JOHN EGERTON:
All kinds of things are happening.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I think that this kind of loosening of bonds and fetters and the sense of chance—a great deal of movement occurred during that period.
JOHN EGERTON:
And yet, here's what bothers me. If you do accept the premise that this was a golden opportunity, here was a chance for some real strides and yet it didn't happen in the sense that we ended up having to go the route of the courts and street protests.
HYLAN LEWIS:
But, this is part of the process.
JOHN EGERTON:
This is part of the process . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
You see what you are saying is that in a sense, to use the word, a prelude for the transition to civil rights.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me take the thought a step farther. We have identified a number of blacks who recognized all the way back into the 30s, as far back as you wish to go, that really a major part of the problem with the South is the whole Jim Crow structure. Everything is held up by that. I think particularly of the book that Chapel Hill published and Rayford Logan edited called, What The Negro Wants. There were thirteen essays from people that were very carefully picked by W.T. Couch. There were

Page 32
so many on the left, so many in the center, so many on the right and every damn one of them came back and said, "segregation is right at the heart of the problem here."
HYLAN LEWIS:
Can I give you a little footnote on that?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes.
HYLAN LEWIS:
This was 1944. If you would have asked some of the people who came out of the Gary Conferences [in 1990 or 1991], I've forgotten the dates, "what does the Negro want?" The answer would be, "what you got?" That's the difference. They [the people in Logan's book] never asked, "what you got?" But you now have people who would. That is a measure of elite. The period that we are talking there was a great discussion of strategy. Should you tackle it head-on or should you tackle it piece by piece? Do you want to get equal salaries or do you want to blow the whole thing up?
JOHN EGERTON:
This was a wonderful philosophical debate. Strategic, philosophical, political, ideological, religious, anyway you want to characterize it this was a momentous debate.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Absolutely.
JOHN EGERTON:
To carry my thought a little farther, the blacks understood this. I don't think there is any question. Conservative, middle of the road, left-winged blacks all understood this. They may have had different ideas about how to approach it but . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
They understood in the sense of how do you fight? As the French say, "what are the possibilities?" It's not probability, it's possibilities. In that sense, again, this is a

Page 33
very interesting kind of paradox. Most every kind of involvement, contest, challenges involving the blacks had a political component, to it which is paradoxical. Many people said that blacks are not political. It's the politicality of these things, and there is a kind of folk politicality which is a part of the black community coming out of the lodges and churches and so forth. The great masters of Robert's Rules of Order to me, were they guys who came out of these clubs. The substitutes for true political behavior so that in some sense you had this latent politicality.
JOHN EGERTON:
At the same time that the people who wrote that book for Rayford Logan and the people who went to the conference in Durham and against the criticism of northern blacks that they were being excluded from this debate, it was very consciously done in Durham. It was for southerners.
HYLAN LEWIS:
This was a tactical strategy.
JOHN EGERTON:
Here are these people . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
This is to insure that Hancock and others advise.
JOHN EGERTON:
Here are these people, we could make a long list of some names here but we know who they are, and they had the sense that when the War is over we need to act on these problems in the south. Focus for a minute on the whites. If you go back and look at all those people we talked about even including Frank Graham and maybe not Lillian Smith but almost everybody else . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
I have a quick answer for you.

Page 34
JOHN EGERTON:
Ok. Let me just throw the question out and see if you are going to go with me on this. They could not quite bring themselves when that moment came, when that time came, '45, '48, possibilities all over the lot, they could not quite bring themselves to say, "now is the time for a frontal assault on segregation." And indeed, in SRC, the day it opened in 1944, they had a debate over this issue and they didn't resolve it until 1951. Am I right or wrong about blacks being ready and whites, even the liberal whites, not quite being ready at that point?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes. In some sense blacks have always been ready but in another sense I used to say sometime, I don't want to defend it at this moment. Another discussion I had with a friend of mine a long time ago I made the apperception, I said, "blacks have never been mousetrapped."
Let me go back to make a comment on your point. The difference maker in these situations have been young whites who represent a different generation and a different design for capitalizing. Capitalizing means making money and achieving power politically. The unsung person here as a catalyst, Morris Abrams, extraordinarily important in this context. This coming together in Atlanta of Morris Abrams, John Harrell, Harry Ashmore, Phil Hammer. What did Morris stress? Money, housing—there's money to be made in housing—but if you make money in the housing you also need to think in terms of power of politics, one man, one vote. Morris is complex—he ain't no flaming liberal. He's one of the most sensitive guys. I've seen friends who

Page 35
literally made him cry because his pride was . . . The thing that prevents Morris from being a really great person is a kind of sense that his pride gets wounded and that effects his . . . Well, that's another story. I think that in the Atlanta context he's perfect as a kind of a catalyst there. I think if you look at other settings too, where there are those who combine a sense, I use the word capitalize. The economics that relates to the housing or relates to the jobs, or commerce, these kinds of combinings made for a sense of possibilities and so on. So, I think, Atlanta represents interrelatedness. Atlanta is one of the most confusing and confounded things in terms of its political lives and how they were tackled and how the answers to them made for very important developments. I think if you look at a Morris Abrams, and if you look at a Rufus Clement and you say, "what do they want in what context, and what does Atlanta have to offer?" My comment, my observation is that it has worked best. You say, "why?" It's interesting to compare Atlanta and Birmingham—I think that the side doors in Atlanta which you had people to come in and out of.
JOHN EGERTON:
There's no question—that's a great metaphor, I think, for Atlanta. But, if you think that that was a period of opportunity and it didn't quite work. For one thing, the Cold War came along and gave the demagogues a great new club to whack everybody over the head with. They had had it in a sense all along but when McCarthy made it national and put it in the center of American political debate then the Talmadges and the Eastlands and all the rest of those people in the South could say to

Page 36
anybody, white or black, who dared to think that integration was a consideration that they must be communists. That came along and then . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
But nobody ever took that seriously in the South. Again, these are pretend rules.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, but it was effective, don't you think? Did they not, or did that not have anything to do with it?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Just speculating here, I think the South, as many sects, has had the greatest facility for the use and manipulation, the conjuring of code words for the beast as the enemy.
JOHN EGERTON:
Outside agitation.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, and that kind of thing. I remember Talmadge was "bloc voters." I think that the communists . . . I say this because I knew and I know very well—this is another story, the whole Communist, FBI bit. But this was an urban northern comment essentially. There were some small linkages . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
But, they were totally insignificant.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Totally insignificant, but the cry communist instead of cry nigger, if that makes sense, was . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Was a much more acceptable thing.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, in some context. It would have been really interesting if you'd had a few cells there.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, to see what would have happened.
HYLAN LEWIS:
The other point about it is that any association of white and black in any context, the thought then was that only communist would do that. I will never forget when I was doing

Page 37
the New York study the people in Chapel Hill would come down to visit me and once they came down John Gillian and Ken Moore and others came down and they had a big old-time van which they came in. They came in to see me and they put the van in the yard. While we were sitting there talking about academic and research matters the town cops came and crept up outdoors to eavesdrop to see what the hell was happening. Now, this was a communist . . . a possible potential. The guy that saved my hide was not the young cop but it was old man Ed Turner. He was an old farmer. It is in that sense that the outsider and the [inaudible]. That, I think, is another story.
JOHN EGERTON:
If indeed that was an opportunity that was not seized upon, to what extent would you say that the institutions, the pillars of southern society, failed the ideal, failed to provide the leadership? The church, the press, the university, the political parties—again, I'm close to stating my own conclusions here rather than asking a question but if I think about the church, for example, in the '30s, I see some people and hear some voices saying, "you need to do better by the poor and the downtrodden, you need to be helpful." Even if it wasn't explicitly racial it was at least philosophically a kind of beatitudinal approach to things. But, when you get up into the real heat, up in the late 40s and early 50s, it's not so much that the church begins to preach a different sermon, it's that you don't hear any voice coming out of there anymore.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes. The thing that comes to my mind is one of the big to-dos in the South in the church circles of the 20s and 30s had

Page 38
to do with temperance. If you think in terms of what the church did in terms of that, making it an issue, race was certainly an issue in the same sense that temperance was.
JOHN EGERTON:
Even the social gospel people who came along and worked on all kinds of things in different places and even had some outposts in the South like Koinonia and some of these co-op places in Mississippi and various places like that. But, the mainline church. . . . Well, here's another example. There was a guy named Ashby Jones, a white Baptist preacher in Atlanta, was one of will Alexander's main people in the Institute of Racial Cooperation. This guy, Ashby Jones, stayed right with him through all that period of essentially paternalistic kind of doing good. But, when they got to SRC, when the guys from Durham and the whites from Atlanta got together to talk about forming SRC and the issue of segregation was laid on the table, Ashby Jones got as mad as a hornet. He said, "this is absolutely not what I had in mind. I don't want to talk about it."
HYLAN LEWIS:
That, I think, is the real thing that we are all saddled with in some sense that when it gets to be really serious and possible . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
You lose a lot of people.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Something fails. It beggars one, but does it depress one or does it bring one in a position that one says, "there is no way out?"
JOHN EGERTON:
Because in point of fact the way out turned out to be that the Federal courts made up essentially of white male conservatives from the Supreme Court right down through those

Page 39
district courts across the South turned to the basic document and said, "never mind what I believe personally, I may be madder than hell about this but here is what the document says." You had that plus the fact . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
You always find a moral reason or a constitutional reason.
JOHN EGERTON:
And both of them came together in the mid 50s when all this other stuff failed. That's my story.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I think here again is the real significance if not greatness of the Lillian Smiths. The kinds of clarity with which they saw and enunciated some of these things. This was a fantasy about them. I think that Ralph McGill did a great deal to move toward that, I mean to move Atlanta and a large part of the South, in a way, for example, that the Richmond people did not.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, they absolutely did not.
HYLAN LEWIS:
They failed it. An interesting paradox is that in spite of them you have a Virginia which has a momentum of change relating to demographics and geography. What has always been true in Virginia—Tidewater, Richmond, Roanoke—these are little subregions. The same thing is true of Tennessee. You have so many fascinating stories.
JOHN EGERTON:
There is a lot here, isn't it?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Atlanta is such a great setting for so many, many stories, so many linkages. And again, the metaphor that it is one of the busiest airports in the country.
JOHN EGERTON:
That in essence is the long story that I want to tell and indeed I like that you used the word story because that is

Page 40
exactly what I intend to write. Not an academic treaty, not a documented thing, but a long story.
HYLAN LEWIS:
It's a continuing journey. It's like the journey in Margaret Lawrence's book, A Balm in Gilead, she talks about the journeys, the story of a journey. Here again, the South's consciousness of the fellow travelers on the journey has been something, even though you exclude them, the South's extent to exclude had an inclusive quality to it. The northerners excluded. [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
They are still different, aren't they?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Oh, yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
And for that reason still fascinating.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, and I think the interesting thing about the South you use a lot of little things which you call the "Holiday Innizing" of the South. [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
I wrote a book twenty years ago called The Americanization of Dixie which is a . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Oh, yes, that's it. Welcome Whitney Young, welcome.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you about a few people that I have not asked you specifically about as sort of a personal assessment of people whom you knew. Charles Johnson is one. You gave me a good mental picture of Frank Graham, give me a similar picture of Charles Johnson.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I think Charles Johnson was an extraordinary man, extraordinarily important person. Important for his effectiveness. He was effective because he had a command of a great variety of skills. One, of course, was seen annoying, and

Page 41
I guess patience was one as well. His skill at writing and at choosing and leading people was extremely important. I think that he was able to place his stamp on a period or an era in ways that I can't think of anyone who has done that since then.
JOHN EGERTON:
Explain that.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Charles Johnson's influence in the area of philanthropy in higher education and his working on boards and behind the scenes in terms of facilitating educational processes, facilitating to some extent the fellowship and scholarship programs. And in terms of stimulating intellect and academic activity and improvement. The books that he wrote, the research teams that he gathered and those kinds of things. We spoke of Charlie Johnson's plantation in a sense where there are various people. When Charles Johnson died I was managing editor of Phylon. There is a preliminary statement there which I did a sort of appreciation of Charles Johnson. I have forgotten what I said. If you look at that year. What year was that?
JOHN EGERTON:
'54 or '55, right along in there.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Somewhere there is a . . . . I answer your question, I make some statement which is much more articulate than what I am saying now. A complex man, a proud man who had a great sense of people of talent and the uses of the people of talent
JOHN EGERTON:
His plantation included a good many whites, didn't it?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Certainly, that's what I am saying.
JOHN EGERTON:
He had connections all over the land.
HYLAN LEWIS:
That I think is the greatest.
JOHN EGERTON:
It amazes me.

Page 42
HYLAN LEWIS:
Charles Johnson had a kind of influence that matched the life of Booker T. Washington. I'm talking about the process not the content.
JOHN EGERTON:
Personally, was he an easy man to know? was he a formal man?
HYLAN LEWIS:
He was not easy to know as far as I was concerned. There was a great deal of shrewd reserve. There was almost an owl-like quality sometimes. He knew how to use it. The Valiens [Preston and Bonita Valien, his assistants] were extraordinarily important. There were some people who think now in terms of the sense of "how he used them." He was a human being. There were rivalries between Frazier and Johnson, that sort of rivalry. He was human, all too human. He had a wife who was very supportive. I have great appreciation and respect and honor to him.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Benjamin Mays? Give me a picture of him.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Benjamin Mays had a great quality of, I begin to use a kind of quiet eloquence and presentation of wisdom which he combined for his method of leadership. I think of Benny Mays, his wife Sadie, who was very important. If you think of people like Johnson, Mays, and Frazier you don't get the full picture of them unless you also get some sense of what their wives meant and the interaction with their wives.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was Johnson's wife's name?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Marie. Mays, I think he polished the practice and presentation of the minister-leader-educator in the way that he was inspired. He gave a secular tinge to his calling without at the same time making it egregious and obvious. For example, you

Page 43
think of Hancock as a minister, but Mays you don't think of that although he is a Baptist preacher out of South Carolina. When I think and I use the word honed, he honed his personal skills and presentation and presence in a way that was extremely important.
JOHN EGERTON:
Definitely a member of the pantheon here as far as you are concerned of black leaders of that time, or not?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, a black leader figure of influence and respect. He wrote to the servants. I knew Mays quite well. He was at the University of Chicago when I was there and I knew him when he was getting his degree.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was he a difficult man?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Not difficult. Mays, I use the word hone, Mays practiced being Mays. I don't mean to be harsh or hyperbolic in saying that. I think that without the support of his wife, Sadie, Mays was not that good of a writer. His intellectual abilities are not that . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Whereas Johnson had these . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Charles Johnson was far out.
JOHN EGERTON:
He wrote a document in Durham overnight.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Mays, this is not to diminish him at all, he honed the skills that he had. Mays was one of the first persons ever that later on spoke of himself in the third person. Charles Johnson would never say that. [laughter] Again, this is not to diminish Mays.
JOHN EGERTON:
Two other people I would like to get you to give me a personal perspective on. First, Thurgood Marshall.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Extraordinary man. I don't know him well but I know him in a secondhand and in a very small sense. I have great

Page 44
respect. Rough hewn, combative, shrewd, forceful, courageous man with good street smarts who combines street smarts with . . . . who could play poker and toss off a couple of beers with the boys and joke but at the same time never lose sight of the essential and have an intellectual and gut sense of what democracy, freedom and equality mean.
Mays would speak it intellectually but he didn't have quite the same sense . . . . although Mays had a lot of courage, too. I knew Mays at Chicago and at Howard and Mays and I did some—I had forgotten about this—Mays did have that important streak of being on the edge. I remember he and I went together as young instructors and we made some efforts to get George Washington University to open up ,[inaudible].
Most of the ones you are talking about had this activist edge to them. I think if Mays had an activist edge it was a different kind of edge than Charles Johnson had. Mays [inaudible] and positioning tinge which Charles never has had. I think that's very important.
JOHN EGERTON:
Johnson was more of a diplomat behind the scenes. The man who put together coalitions and all.
HYLAN LEWIS:
A man who had no design for office as such, but who had design for behind the scenes power and for influence both in terms of the essay as well as the scholarly production of time. Johnson worked on a battlefield which is quite different than Mays did. Mays didn't have the skills of Johnson. Johnson had skills . . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Howard Odum, we really haven't talked about him at all.

Page 45
HYLAN LEWIS:
I didn't know Odum. I spent some time at Chapel Hill and I can talk to you about Odum. Odum is like the apostle Paul, somewhere on the road to Damascus. [laughter] If you read Odum's Columbia University dissertation, it's one of the damndest things that you ever read in your life in terms of his view of the Negro and the things of that sort.
JOHN EGERTON:
Then he went to Philadelphia and worked for DuBois on some kind of school project. All of that is so strange.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I think in terms, again, if you were to talk about Carolina, Odum and Graham are very important base figures in terms of what that . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
But, two very different men who didn't necessarily like each other very well. There was a contentious relationship.
HYLAN LEWIS:
There had to be. I'm sure Odum was probably kind of a czar. I know people who worked with him. Again, he had to be an extraordinary person to pull together these kind of people and to let them work and operate in that setting and to let them build institutions which have been very important to North Carolina.
JOHN EGERTON:
By the time you got to Carolina for that little stint was his reputation still way up there?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Oh, gosh, yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think his reputation survives pretty much intact?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I would say, yes. I would say Odum was one of the forefather's, gurus, of social science of a serious scholarship of the South. I think at the University of North Carolina is far ahead of places like Tulane and others, and even Vanderbilt.

Page 46
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you have any sense of where Odum was personally in terms of the race thing?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I don't personally know. The only thing I know is that he had to have had a personal shift. I knew his dissertation. Have you looked at that?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, I have.
HYLAN LEWIS:
That's one of the damndest things.[laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
I have one more thing that's really important for me to ask you about. It is really the thing that brought me here in a way, that is the Ashmore project. The conclusion of my story really is Brown. That's where I stop and you guys worked on the post Brown. You worked on the consequences. Talk a little bit about that project and those people and can you tell me to begin with if you have a particular recollection of the day the Brown Decision came down. Do you remember it?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I don't have a recollection of that. It is very interesting though, I have a recollection of the Kennedy assassination but not of Brown. when was that?
JOHN EGERTON:
May 17th.
HYLAN LEWIS:
I was in Atlanta.
JOHN EGERTON:
You would have been there with the project. In fact, that book came out the same day.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Margaret Ryan is a good friend of mine. Mozelle Hill was an important figure and I will never forget the session we used to have and Harry was a kind of iconoclastic, wonderfully smart and effective person who wanted to cut through a lot of the crap. I will never forget, Mozelle and he used to have these

Page 47
interchanges and Mozelle Hill would always say, "well, Harry, you are violating the discipline." [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
He would say, "discipline my ass."
HYLAN LEWIS:
That's right. [laughter] I did Mozelle Hill's eulogy where I referred to Mozelle and Harry. I first met Harry at Howard when he first came to the floor as the editor of the Arkansas Gazette. He came to Howard for some meeting of some kind.
I think the key people—Harold is extremely important—Harold and Phil Hammer, they are Harry Ashmore.
JOHN EGERTON:
They were his right-hand men that pulled this stuff together.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Precisely. And Harry was the kind of engaging, shrewd-he didn't advocate anything intellectually, but he knew what he had particularly in the instance of Harold and Phil. He let them have their way. Harold and Phil, as in so many things in that particular point in time, they had a great sense of utilization of Atlanta University and the people there and how that made for linkages in the community. So, I have nothing but the most positive and warm feelings of what happened there. I also have important linkages there because Margaret Ryan and I worked together over at the O. W. I. I didn't mention that.
JOHN EGERTON:
Where was she from?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Margaret is from Texas.
JOHN EGERTON:
Is she still living?
HYLAN LEWIS:
I don't know. She was married and last living in Austin. She married Bruce Ryan and he was her first husband.

Page 48
She had another one. We stayed in contact together until about three or four years ago.
JOHN EGERTON:
How would I find her out there?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Ask Robin, well, you might . . . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
I was thinking about that project, the Ashmore thing. What was the routine? Did you meet on certain days?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Mozelle Hill, Harold and Hill were the key people and Mozelle was the big link. I was associated with Mozelle and that's how I was brought in on it. Mozelle was, in this context, senior to me. We would meet and Harry would come through and we would have meetings and sessions.
JOHN EGERTON:
At Atlanta University?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, at Atlanta University. Then we would have meetings and sessions with Harold and Hill and John [Griffin]. That kind of thing went on.
JOHN EGERTON:
This would have been in the summer, fall, spring of '53, '54 leading up to the Brown. Can you recall discussions among yourselves during that time about what the significance of all this was? About what Brown was going to be about?
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, I think in the sense we were so concerned. . . . The focus was on getting people ready, getting people to accept what happened no matter what. I think this was a great part and I think looking back, the terms of the Ashmore project were, in a sense, put in an apprehensive frame. There was more concern and apprehension than there was for leadership. Again, this is understandable—what's going to happen? There is a link too to what the heritage of southern—this is a part of the George

Page 49
Mitchell—this is what it was all about. SRC is about preparation, feeling, movement and acceptance. It is not about revolution.
END OF INTERVIEW