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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 >>

Offering new interpretations of the Bible in the Bible Belt

In this excerpt, Morton discusses the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen's effort to re-situate Southern interpretations of religion. In explaining how the Fellowship was "Bible oriented," Morton contrasts the ways in which someone like Eugene Talmadge used biblical interpretations to espouse segregation with the ways in which someone like Charles Jones used the Bible to promote more openness and tolerance. Interestingly, she asserts that despite the Fellowship's stance on integration, Jones never preached any sermons that were overtly about race.

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:
Did the Fellowship try to . . . what . . . reinterpret southern religion?
NELLE MORTON:
What do you mean by southern religion, because the Bible Belt . . .
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
Yes, the fundamentalist approach. Did they try to use that in gaining a foothold in . . .
NELLE MORTON:
Now this is a good question, too, and I'm not sure that . . . uh, of course I felt that everything Fellowship did, nearly, was . . . it was aware that this was the Bible Belt, and the language we were using meant a different thing, but from . . . uh, . . . I guess in a way, yes, in the sense that the Fellowship claimed to be Bible oriented and were finding a different kind of thing, yeah, in the Bible . . . than the kind of interpretation that was . . . and I yes, I guess, it was calling into question a lot that I know Talmadge when he came up (not the present one) when he first came in, you know, he used the Bible for ulterior purposes. I think that was an effort to make clear in certain folders, because when he ran the last time, I think for Governor, he got on a bus with his New Testament, and he began to whip it out every time he sat down next to somebody, and he would show how the Bible preaches against integration and against labor and against Jews . . . everything. He used the Bible from beginning to end and I think this was . . . I guess this was reinterpreted and especially by the ministers who were in the Fellowship. An interesting thing about Charles Jones is that he never preached a sermon on race.
DALLAS A. BLANCHARD:
He didn't?
NELLE MORTON:
It was always a broader kind of thing but he was right in the front in protests and in trying to break this so . . . it was the action . . . the sermons were something else again. It was just a very common sense sermon.