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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nelle Morton, June 29, 1983. Interview F-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Frank Porter Graham and the Fellowship working together

In this excerpt, Morton describes two incidents in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that Warren Ashby attributes to Frank Porter Graham in his book. According to Morton, whereas Ashby was not incorrect that Graham was involved in the incidents, the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen played a more prominent role in working with Graham than suggested by Ashby. The two incidents in question involved Kei Kenada, a Japanese American that Graham and the Fellowship helped get out of a relocation center and into school during World War II, and Dorothy Maynor, an African American opera singer that Graham and the Fellowship got to perform in front of an integrated audience in Chapel Hill. Her comments are revealing of the various ways in which the Fellowship worked with someone like Graham to promote tolerance and awareness.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nelle Morton, June 29, 1983. Interview F-0034. 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

DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
What kind of mistakes were in Ashby's book?
NELLE MORTON:
Oh, well I think one was . . . it wasn't really a great error . . . but one was the mistake in terms of . . . of course he was trying to play up Dr. Frank.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Sure.
NELLE MORTON:
Dr. Frank's relation to the coming in as a student of Kei Kenada is apt to be some error, a Japanese American who was . . . ah . . . it was right at the time when things were very tense, and I was one of the persons even before Candis (?) in Chapel Hill, . . . I was one of the persons who got Kei and her sister out of Relocation Center . . . one of them, . . . Grace . . . lived with me a year and Kei lived with Henry Mack who was teaching at the training school in Richmond, and then after I went to Chapel Hill they then began to bring Kei down there, and so finally all Kei needed to go to college and so you know the whole story of how Kei came to be, you know, in school there was just thrilling because the Junior Highs in the church had a lot to do with that . . . it was just a beautiful story, but in short, I went to Dr. Frank and he is a great . . . believer of going through the channels. He said just let her make application as any student and they will have to face this issue then . . . and so, they . . . she made application and they sent Dr. Frank a copy of their answer to Kei saying that if she had all the qualifications they would accept her but that there's no place for her to live, and this was kind of closing the issue, you know.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Sure.
NELLE MORTON:
And Dr. Frank came down and said . . . brought the letter down . . . to the church, . . . I had an office in the church then . . . brought the letter down to the church and said, "Will you tell those kids, the Jr. Highs in the church, if they will find a place for Kei to live, then evidently that will clear it up . . . the reason they're giving. Try that. So these kids found a home for Kei . . . it was just wonderful the way they met her and everything . . . prepared everything. But then the Admissions Committee, even though they had no comeback to that . . . well, evidently Warren had gotten the story that Dr. Frank had just bucked the whole shootin' match . . . and said that we'll have her. Well he didn't do that. And you see, it would have missed all the educational kind of thing . . . different things they say he said . . . and he had demonstrated it . . . the same kind of fair . . . in relation to when Dr. Maynard concerted with Chapel Hill . . . ah . . . Dorothy Maynor was married to Shelby Rooks, a Christian minister in New York, and at this time Dorothy was just at her tops in Metropolitan Opera, and Shelby Rooks was, at that year, Chairman of a committee in New York to raise money for the Fellowship, and some of us went up every year to talk with him . . . and so finally he told me, one day he said, "I'll give you Dorothy for a concert, if you'll give us Dr. Frank." So I said, well we'll see. And so we began to work on it. The Fellowship has never had anything, and never while I was there, and I'm sure it must have been segregated before . . . never had a meeting, never had anything anywhere that was segregated. And so the first place we tried was Charlotte and they were so thrilled to have Dorothy Maynor there, in I've forgotten what auditorium, but then when they found that it could not be segregated they said they couldn't do it, they said the same thing happened in Atlanta. And so finally, we went to Dr. Frank and asked him what about the Fellowship, if we had it there, and he said again, the same thing . . . it would be wonderful but we had to go through the channels and let them place this. Well, the Fellowship had refused all of . . . (oh and Richmond is another one) . . . all of these other places because they had to be segregated, and we weren't about to have a concert that was segregated in any way. Bill Poteat, who teaches now (you can check this with Bill), he teaches at Duke University, ah, Bill was teaching at Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina there, he was on that committee . . . The Fellowship was having an all day executive committee meeting at Livingston College, and the Board was meeting in Chapel Hill, and we just kept breathless all day long to see as to how it would turn out. And finally, at 4:00 o'clock, when we were just ready to close, Bill called and said the Board has said, "Invite Dorothy Maynor. There will be no segregation."
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Well, I'll be . . . About what year was that?
NELLE MORTON:
Oh gracious . . . I could find out, or you could find out . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
It will be in the records.
NELLE MORTON:
Yes.
NELLE MORTON:
But, it was just a thrilling thing. People who disapproved of integration were more anxious to hear Dorothy Maynor than they were to hold out for segregation.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Sure. . . . 344
NELLE MORTON:
It was just a beautiful experience, and of course that did a great deal to help the whole university. But this is the way Dr. Frank worked . . . and Warren has it that the Fellowship tried to compromise, and this is one thing they did not, and Dr. Frank knew it, and that's why he said let it go through the channels . . . and his method of working has done more to educate people to deal with an issue.