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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thelma Stevens, February 13, 1972. Interview G-0058. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Dorothy Tilly and the Fellowship of the Concerned

Stevens discusses her understanding of the Fellowship of the Concerned, focusing particularly on the role of Mrs. Dorothy Tilly. According to Stevens, the Fellowship of the Concerned involved significant participation from women. She describes their aims and their interdenominational approach towards pursuing matters of social justice.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thelma Stevens, February 13, 1972. Interview G-0058. 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

Have you, in your conversations with the people at the Southern Regional Council, gathered the data or had the data on the Fellowship of the Concerned?
Not very much, really.
Well, this is one of the most significant programs of involvement of women that took place, that has taken place in the South. Mrs. Tilly initiated it. I think it started about . . . around 1950, although I'm not sure. First . . . its first major program dealt with getting women to sit in the courts to be present in every community across the South where there was a court . . . where there was a courthouse or where there was a court, to hear the cases. Women were asked to get themselves organized into teams of two, three, four, however many they could spare, and go to court at the times . . . especially at the times when any black people were going to be on trial, just to go and sit. By their very presence, demand that justice be done. And if perchance anything happened that indicated there was not a fair trail, then it was their business to enlist the whole community to join them in protest to the court and put it on the line the things that had happened that were not in keeping with the principles of justice that should permeate the life of the court. And this . . . this spread like hotcakes all across the South, and hundreds, literally hundreds, of women participated in this program. Now, this was particulary focused on the courts. Then in 1954 when the Supreme Court decision was made on the school desegregation, then Mrs. Tilly began a program of education and guidelines for action on desegregation. I mean, to carry out the Supreme Court decision. Once every year, usually in the fall of the year, about October or November, Mrs. Tilly would have what she called an annual meeting of the Fellowship of the Concerned, where women from various denominations, Jews, Catholics, blacks, whites, from all over the South, would sent their representative - their top official, usually. In the case of The Methodist Church, it would be the president of the conference or the Christian Social Relations secretary of the conference, or, you know, people in places where they could have channels to alert people to action. They'd meet together for about two days, and during that two days Mrs. Tilly would have resource people, both for content - that is, for information about what the issues are, what the progress is that's being made and what steps are being taken - and then second she'd have people there who'd talk about what are the strategies, techniques of specific action programs in which we should involve ourselves. And then they'd set a program. "Now this year we've been saying we're going to do this or this or this." And then when they'd come back the next year they'd talk about what they'd done, where they'd failed, what the new needs, were, you see.