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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Olive Stone, August 13, 1975. Interview G-0059-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Decision to attend UNC and description of Howard Odum

Stone describes her decision to pursue her doctoral degree in sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having had trouble finding funding for her newly formed Committee for People's Rights, Stone decided to focus on her academic work for awhile. In focusing on her choice of UNC, Stone focuses particularly on her perception of Howard Odum. Although she concedes she found his views on civil rights to be somewhat conservative, she emphasizes her belief that Odum and the UNC academic community were very supportive of her work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Olive Stone, August 13, 1975. Interview G-0059-4. 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

SHERNA GLUCK:
Well now, it was when you were not able to get the financing for both the Committee for People's Rights and for your own research that you decided, in that interim before January, to go to Chapel Hill for the Doctorate?
OLIVE STONE:
And to apply first for admission and then for a fellowship. However I hadn't really made up my mind about U. of N.C. until I went to Shaw University, in late Nov. 1934. And the letter that came to me inviting me to Shaw was from the International Student Service was forwarded from Montgomery. Frances Henson said, "I have the pleasure of inviting you to attend a very important conference of about twenty-five younger Negro and younger white leaders to be held at Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina, from 2 p.m. Friday, November 30 through Sunday, December 2, 1934." The invitation tells who is on the committee, and it included such people as Howard Kester [either he or FOR or the Swarthmore leaders may have suggested me] and Dr. Ira Reid, who is the author of a number of books on the Negro, and who taught both at Atlanta University and later at Swarthmore or one of the eastern colleges. He was on that American Council on Education study of the Negro in which Franklin Frazier, Charles Johnson, and several others participated. It was before the Swedish scholar Myrdal came over to write the book, An American Dilemma, you know; Guy Johnson worked on that. So I met a number of the Swarthmore people at the Shaw U. conference; I had known Howard Kester longer than the others. And here he's called "Howard A. Kester, Secretary of the Committee on Economic and Racial Justice." See, he had made the shift by then. Then Mr. Henson concludes: "The whole question of objectives in interracial work, as well as the inadequacy of present organizations in this field, and educational provisions for the Negro will be discussed freely." He adds, "I think it's desirable for us to handle the issues without gloves. Out of our discussions we will expect action to come." You see, the Odum point of view, I had heard, was to discuss more than to act. Though, in a way, to act too; at least to try to get people to sit down and listen to each other. Shaw University was generously making it possible for us to obtain room and board at $1.50 a day. [Isn't that charming?] And when it was found that I was in Washington it was offered that Dr. Virginia Alexander stop and pick me up and bring me to Shaw. And she did. But the final decision to attend U. of N.C., if accepted, came after I met John and Emily Maclachlan there at Shaw. John was getting or had gotten his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina, and he was teaching at the Raleigh branch. They seemed a little restive not under the regional emphasis, but, I felt, under the concentation on it. However they liked it and they admired Odum and Vance and Johnson very, very much. But at that time they thought they'd better tell me [laughter] that civil rights should be handled more cautiously than at Shaw because of the "Will Alexander approach" and because regionalism was the emphasis. Here I was meeting some real graduates who had experienced Chapel Hill directly and I became quite convinced from them that that would be the best place on earth to go if I were accepted and could find a fellowship. So I conferred with Odum about enrolling as a student. He invited me to come, and I did.
SHERNA GLUCK:
I see. And then you decided that wherever you were going to be, you were still going to try to set up this Southern Committee for People's Rights.
OLIVE STONE:
Yes. And I told Odum that I was interested in civil rights programs, and that I had been active in this general area of southern leadership for civil rights. And I think he liked my appreciation of the fact that any "cause", to work in the South, should be southern. It should not be superimposed from the outside, or brought in by strangers. It was not so much the prejudice against Yankeeism as it was the fact that Northerners might not understand—in short, a program should be indigenous. And we agreed on that.
SHERNA GLUCK:
Now what was your image of him exactly?
OLIVE STONE:
As a very famous man, and an awesomely able man. My, he was brilliant! [laughter] He could read a page before you could hand it to him.
SHERNA GLUCK:
But you saw him as definitely having a different, as being a much more conservative voice in terms of the civil rights movement?
OLIVE STONE:
Yes, I did think of his being conservative. But I had great respect for his scholarship. I had read several of his books and I … liked two things about him and UNC that I didn't like about Chicago. He knew and loved the South and he saw no conflict between social work and sociology. At Chicago Miss Abbott and Miss Breckinridge had parted company with sociology. Sociology had also severed connection with the National Conference of Charities and Corrections when it decided to become scientific. Actually there could be nothing more scientific than what Miss Abbott and Miss Breckinridge [laughter] had us do in our research. However, if I had gone there for my Doctorate I would not have had as broad an opportunity. I felt they belonged together, the social sciences and social work, and I have always believed that. Dr. Odum was strongly in favor of social work. He helped found the School of Social Work and the Department of Public Welfare, and wrote some of the books in that field. So there was never any schism in Chapel Hill at all. I liked that. I took a minor in social work but actually I had many courses in anthropology—it could have been a minor, because I was interested in folk groups and anthropological methods of research.
SHERNA GLUCK:
But you mentioned several times your hesitancy because of his conservative position and the caution that you had to use in terms of the formation of the Southern Committee for People's Rights. Was he very overt about this?
OLIVE STONE:
No, never, never. And neither were my other professors. And I don't recall inviting them; I asked other people such as Paul Green and Phillips Russell to involve Guy Johnson and Rupert Vance. Actually the group was younger than Odum. He had been the professor of my professors. See, he invited his most brilliant students to stay on, and brought in other people. He had never expressed any … In fact one of the first courses I took was a course under him, and he put me through the mill to see if I could do it [laughter]: partly having me make sort of a historical study of some of the earlier sociologists that I hadn't learned about before coming to Chapel Hill. So I had a great time with him; enjoyed it very much. But I had a feeling that since Vance and Johnson did not join the Southern Committee probably it was not the thing to do. And I think, on the other hand, that people in the humanities and other fields were a little freer to work for civil liberties than someone in the social science field, who would then be confused with the social worker.