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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Limited contact with African American civil rights leaders

Calvin and Elizabeth Kytle discuss their general lack of contact with African American civil rights activists. Noting that they knew such leading figures as Benjamin Mays and Rufus Clement by reputation, the Kytles explain that in general their actual interaction with African Americans during the late 1940s was generally limited, despite their staunch support of civil rights reform. They offer a brief anecdote regarding their attendance of an African American play at Atlanta University which demonstrates both growing opportunities but limits to interaction between African Americans and whites during that time.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What about Benjamin Mays in this time? What perspective did you have on Benjamin Mays and Rufus Clement?
It's sad to say, but we didn't have an awful lot of contact with blacks. I knew Clement and Benjamin Mays by reputation and I admired them as I did Mr. walden. Mr. Walden used to come to these meetings. He would sort of sit there and smile and be sweet. He would very rarely say anything. I just don't have any thoughts.
I remember one thing about Benjamin Mays when he was in that meeting that Josephine was in on and I was there for some reason, not to take part, I was just there. He stood up and said,--I don't remember now what the issue was,--but just pled, "Let's do the honorable thing." I didn't know anything really about him.
In visits to Atlanta University it was almost like excursions, it was very exotic country, I remember sometime right after the War Elizabeth and I went out to Atlanta U. to see the "Barracks of Wimpole Street." It was the first time I had ever seen a white play done with a black cast. I remember how wonderful it was because after about thirty seconds we lost complete sight of the fact that the cast was black.
I think it was good that they were all black. It would have interfered with the drama if there were some black and some white.
They were very good and then I realized that there were things happening on that campus that were interesting to me but were never reported in the Atlanta Press. For instance, they brought down Eimer Rice who wrote The Adding Machine and Street Scenes. He came down and he was sort of a visiting lecturer there for about a quarter. There was not even an interview with Elmer Rice in The Atlanta Constitution. I would never have heard about it except through maybe somebody like Grace. I remember going out and listening to him and just being absolutely thrilled that somebody like that was in Atlanta and available to me. I kept wondering what else is available to these black folks--why don't they come to Emory? [laughter]