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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 >>

The Fellowship's purpose created large rifts among its membership

The characterization of Myles Horton and Howard "Buck" Kester's creation of the Highlander Folk School and eventual rift over the utility of the Penn School's conference center illuminates a larger, divisive issue occurring within the Fellowship. The Siceloffs explain that the Fellowship's members divided over the organization's primary function—whether to be an engine for religious interests or social change. This is a theme which is expressed throughout the interview.

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 And greatly admired. You know, Myles Horton was admired. COURTNEY SICELOFF Hounded. And was much more radical than what I'd assume the Fellowship was. DALLAS BLANCHARD I think so. Myles was, of course, also nonreligious. ELIZABETH SICELOFF Uh-huh. That's like saying he's not one for literature. I guess his involvement would be of a nonreligious nature. Social change. DALLAS BLANCHARD Myles asked Buck to come help him to start Highlander. ELIZABETH SICELOFF Did he? DALLAS BLANCHARD Yeah. Buck went to the Fellowship instead in the early 30's and supported what was going on at Highlander around the late 30's. They had split over the communist issue. Myles was willing to work with anybody. Not to be taken in by them but work with them. Buck wouldn't. Myles was more active as an organizer. Buck wasn't. There was just a real difference in personalities. ELIZABETH SICELOFF I never knew that. DALLAS BLANCHARD In fact, Buck wrote one letter in which he implies he thought Highlander was his operation, but then decided not to it from what the Fellowship was doing. ELIZABETH SICELOFF I think that both were such strong individuals that they couldn't have worked as a team very well, could they? DALLAS BLANCHARD And Myles felt betrayed by Buck eventually. Buck agreed for the Fellowship to help sponsor a multigroup meeting and Buck backed out of it, and said that he had never agreed to do it according to Myles, then denounced. But that's Myles's version. I just wish Buck were aground so he could talk a little but about it. COURTNEY SICELOFF Back to the matter of the conferencing center being the . It seems to me that there was a period in which it was either a go or no go business with the conference center. It seems to me that it was absorbing so much energy and funds and the director, whoever it was, . . . It must have been Buck at the time. It was a question of whether to put those energies into organizing groups and carrying on the movement as opposed to trying to raise the money to get this thing off the ground. It seems to me that there was a big decision one time on whether the next meeting ought to be in the conference center itself as a commitment that we are going to go through with this. I can't remember if we met there or not. I guess we met at Warren Wilson. DALLAS BLANCHARD The health department killed it. You had to have approved outhouses, and approved water supply, and kitchen and all that. That just could not be done. COURTNEY SICELOFF We spent the weekend trying to meet those standards. DALLAS BLANCHARD But you're right, there was an attempt to have a meeting there, but at the last minute they had to switch it to Warren Wilson. COURTNEY SICELOFF I think, as I recall, there was a decision to be made, are we or aren't we. Let's meet there and show that we are going to go through with it, we are going to make a go of it. There were others who were heated discussions whether to say let's not do it as opposed to let's go there. DALLAS BLANCHARD The feedback I'm getting now from people like Sadie Hughley and some others is that the board itself is really divided but those who were for the camp by David Burgess were so strongly for it and the rest of us . . . ELIZABETH SICELOFF Kind of a passion . . . DALLAS BLANCHARD Yeah and those who were against it weren't so strongly against it so they remained silent in the executive DALLAS BLANCHARD But anyway, they just wanted to really maintain it. ELIZABETH SICELOFF They would have had everything all finished. DALLAS BLANCHARD Somebody at Vanderbilt, he thought he could get a grant to buy it for $50,000 or something like that. ELIZABETH SICELOFF That would have changed the course of a lot of . . . DALLAS BLANCHARD It's probably just as well that they didn't get it. ELIZABETH SICELOFF They probably would have . . . It would have been more like a church conference.