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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 28, 1974. Interview G-0029-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Opposition to Langston Hughes's visit to UNC

Johnson briefly describes some of the negative reactions to Langston Hughes's visit to the University of North Carolina in 1931. According to Johnson, her husband, Guy B. Johnson, and Howard Odum, with the support of Frank Porter Graham, had arranged for Hughes's visit. According to Johnson, the anecdote she offers here is symbolic of the ways in which the Institute for Research in Social Science at UNC occupied a tenuous position during those years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 28, 1974. Interview G-0029-3. 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

GUION JOHNSON:
From the beginning, when Guy . . . Guy had written some articles for Social Forces on the Ku Klux Klan. I think that a few people in the state became fearful of him at an early date.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
This was right after he came?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, right after we came. And before he received his doctorate, he had collaborated with Dr Odum on two books on Negro songs and his dissertation was the musical talent of the Negro. All this got whispered around on the board of trustees and in a small circle of Negro haters on the board of trustees. Quite soon he was someone to be watched. At one time he brought a Negro poet to the campus. And a rather unfortunate situation arose. He [the poet] wrote for Contempo which was a Communist sponsored newspaper which was being published in Chapel Hill. The poet wrote a poem about Christ and the poem indicated that Christ was black. The word spread very quickly about this black Communist being brought by a member of the sociology department to speak to the students. Guy had raised the money, had written a letter to faculty members saying that he had an opportunity to bring Langston Hughes to the campus and that he would like to pay him a small honorarium. He got a ready response and was able to pay him a decent honorarium. The word went out, because of this affiliation with Contempo, the Communist newspaper, and telegrams flooded and there was a great demand that Guy be fired from the campus. Frank Graham defended Guy and said "I am responsible for what happens on this campus. You fire me. I will not fire the man who brought . . . " And never at any time mentioned Guy's name. I think there was a conspiracy to keep Guy's name out of it, but then there was this feeling that it must have been Guy Johnson. If it wasn't, then it was HOward Odum.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
One was as bad as the other.
GUION JOHNSON:
Oh, yes. Of course Dr Odum was always highly criticized because of his tolerance of the Negro and his favorable comments on the Negro and because he brought Negroes to the campus to speak. He was always suspect.