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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Changes to the Fellowship's organization led to its demise

The Siceloffs discuss how the purpose of the Fellowship evolved with its name change, from an integrated grassroots field work group to an intellectual, organizational endeavor. They explain how Will Campbell's personality embraced his philosophy of merging different ideas together. However, in his efforts to combine the different strategies—field work and intellectual work—the Fellowship was destroyed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. 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

ELIZABETH SICELOFF I guess in thinking of my impressions of the difference, I think of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen as being a vehicle for Will Campbell to do the things that he's called to do. I really don't have any vision of that as an organization. I think he's a prophet who's out there prophesying and crying in the wilderness and doing outrageous things. DALLAS BLANCHARD This is a sideline. He's trying to put together, trying to get a national grant to put together the people in the pro-life movement and the folks in the antinuclear movement and the folks in the environmental issues and the anti-death penalty folks. To get those together at a national level all over then try to organize some local coalitions of these groups. And you talk about a weird bunch. ELIZABETH SICELOFF Reconciliation! The way Will always liked to work with the Klan. Keep in communication. COURTNEY SICELOFF What I remember as the Fellowship, it seemed to me to be more of a grassroots group in which you would try to have a well-integrated group get together periodically and have this idea and bought the property and had long-term plans for carrying out that. People were encouraged to build homes and buy lots from these slots or whatever it was. Once the changed its name, I got the impression that it was much more of an intellectual organization with publications with names I never could pronounce. ELIZABETH SICELOFF Even harder and more obscure than Prophetic Religion. That was not exactly a catchy title for a magazine. COURTNEY SICELOFF I never remember seeing notice of any meeting after that change. DALLAS BLANCHARD No, there wasn't. Intentionally. Will didn't want to spend his time going out and drumming up members for a membership organization. ELIZABETH SICELOFF That's his style. A totally different style. DALLAS BLANCHARD Actually, I think what happened was that he got this grant from the Field Foundation to the National Council of Churches and the National Council he split and he needed an organization to house it and that's why he went to the Fellowship. COURTNEY SICELOFF I thought that he got cut off from the National Council. Did they finally cut off his grant? Weren't we encouraged to write letters to the National Council? DALLAS BLANCHARD The grant came with him. ELIZABETH SICELOFF Maybe they tried to but . . . COURTNEY SICELOFF It seems to me that they were . . . he was being dismissed and they rallied to get the National Council to keep him on. DALLAS BLANCHARD I don't know whether that happened or not but at the split when he got canned by the National Council because he just wanted to be a preacher. That's the way he puts it. I haven't heard from the National Council side. But I have copies of the correspondence going back and forth. I haven't had time to dig into them. He had a grant from the Field Foundation to do what he was doing in the South with the National Council. So when the National Council fired him the grant stayed with him. So then he went to the Fellowship office and said, "I would like to house this grant with the Fellowship" and that's how it got restructured.