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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Johnson refuses to work under tedious conditions for the UNC sociology department

Johnson refused to continue working extra long hours of drudge labor for the UNC sociology department, but another female graduate student gladly took her place. The other woman had no social commitments besides a local Lutheran church, and she felt greater loyalty to Dr. Howard Odum. But even before Johnson left her job, restrictions on women academics kept her from teaching.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what kind of work did you do for the Institute?
GUION JOHNSON:
I did work on Ante-bellum North Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get yourself in a position to do that?
GUION JOHNSON:
I was nasty. I went in and confronted Dr. Odum and said, "I came up here; I have a good job in Texas, to which I intend to return. I came up here to get a PhD. I've taken all your courses in sociology. I have spent a great deal of time doing copy work and doing promotional work for Social Forces. I feel that I've done all that I can for Social Forces. My competence beyond what I've done is limited; therefore, I can't do anything else. I do not wish to do copy reading. If I had wanted to do copy reading, I would have taken a job on a newspaper. I've been offered excellent jobs on newspapers. I loathe copy reading. I will do no more copy reading. If you want me to spend full time on my research project, I will do that and I will work twelve and fourteen hours a day at my research and I will get something written for you so that you can have something to show, so that you can have more foundation money." Which was what he was interested in and of course, you have to show accomplishments in order to get renewals [of grants] . I said that I wanted to change from sociology to history. And he was very upset and he said, "It's a dead end profession. You will get nowhere with a PhD. in history." I said, "My aim is not to get anywhere in history. My aim is to get a PhD. and I think that history will be a good content speciality."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did he think that history was a dead end?
GUION JOHNSON:
"No one's interested in history anymore. History is the dead past. You've got to cut lose from that past and go on, and history has been holding us back" Well, of course, the history of the South with its preoccupation with slavery and Reconstruction was holding the South back. He was right there. But he said, "If you insist upon getting a PH. D. in history there's nothing I can do for you anymore and I cannot support you anymore. You will get nowhere as long as you are at the University of North Carolina, because I cannot support you. You will have to look entirely to the History Department for any support that you get." Which was all right. Well, he was just telling me the truth. And this I realized. But he was very unhappy with me and was quite forthright. He said, "All right, go right ahead and work on your dissertation subject. And I will not expect you to work any more on Social Forces." So poor Catherine Jocher took over my job. And she worked seven days a week, eighteen hours a day I'm sure for years and years and years and years and years and finally in her last years here she was made full professor. And she retired here at guess how much: $7500 a year when men who were full professors were getting $15000 a year. She probably won't tell you this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was she willing to do that kind of work for so long?
GUION JOHNSON:
Why was she willing to have no social life whatsoever. She went to church. The church was important to her; she was very faithful to the Lutheran Church. But her social life was zero. And she slaved away on Social Forces and doing other chores too for Dr. Odum.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did she do that? Was she doing her own research at the same time? Was she doing other research?
GUION JOHNSON:
Well, she was doing some research. I think she had a book on, maybe with Roy Brown, on the administration of Public Welfare. And I don't recall what else that she has written. She has two or three books. I don't think she did any one book by herself. She may have, I may be confused. I really don't recall what she's written.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she have too little confidence in herself as a scholar to cut loose and try to do something on her own, or was she so devoted to Dr. Odum and the Institute, or
GUION JOHNSON:
I think she was genuinely devoted to Dr. Odum. I do think that is true. She did finally come to have a great deal of self-confidence. She was elected to office in the American Sociological Association, Society, ASS, [laughter] I think they changed it so it wouldn't be ASS. It was at one time. I don't know; this was her life, though.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And no one ever really encouraged her to do otherwise.
GUION JOHNSON:
No, no one ever encouraged her to rebel. I would stop by her office and needle her briefly, but all I would do would hurt her feelings, so
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would she respond?
GUION JOHNSON:
With a frozen stare and "you take care of your work and I'll take care of mine." I don't object, I mean, I think she was right. I was never offended.