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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Young, February 14, 1972. Interview G-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Leadership style of Jessie Daniel Ames

Young comments on the leadership style of Jessie Daniel Ames, who was head of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching during the 1930s. According to Young, Ames was an effective orator who appealed to southern women in her campaign to prevent racial lynchings. As Ames describes it, women were naturally disposed to the idea of lynching; however, it was Ames's abilities as a leader that drew them to action. Earlier in the interview, she hinted at the numerical impact of Ames's efforts when she recalled that over 40,000 southern women signed the pledge of the Association.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Young, February 14, 1972. Interview G-0066. 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

ROBERT HALL:
Hadn't Mrs. Ames worked with . . . she worked an awful lot with church women and I wondered how she was able to relate to the women in her organization that she tried to work with. I get the impression that she was a very different kind of person from most of the women that were sort of her followers.
LOUISE YOUNG:
That's right she was. She was sort of a public figure. Not a domestic woman, not a housewife. And what was it about her daughter. Her daughter was afflicted in some way?
ROBERT HALL:
One of her daughters had polio.
LOUISE YOUNG:
Uh huh, I thought so. And she was a loyal wonderful mother of course and family woman. But her manner and her general interest were public, and Mrs. Tilly's was church. And you could sort of see it and in the constitutents they attracted. But Mrs. Ames was an excellent speaker.
ROBERT HALL:
Oh she was?
LOUISE YOUNG:
Of course. No woman that had had any protection herself but was horrified at lynching . . . I don't know about half of these stories about women that they would want a souvenir of lynching, you know, that they saw the lynching and that sort of thing must be true, but I never knew a woman in my life that wasn't horrified at lynching. And I think that was the sort of women that would come to hear Mrs. Ames. And all you wanted to know was, how could I stop it? It's heinous, it's horrible. But it's completely out of my province. I never would see it or know what it was all about or anything like that. And to get such women to sign would be very easy. Now to get them to say that they would go and visit the judge and say to do something about the Ku Klux Klan was something different, but she would show them how and they'd be ready to do it.
ROBERT HALL:
Well would she be the kind of woman that could get them to go see the Klan, or go see the . . . ? Was she that kind of persuasive?
LOUISE YOUNG:
You see, the climate was set for it. She didn't have to persuade them that this needed to be stopped. She just had to tell them how they could help to stop it because they were already charged up to stop it, any woman that would come to such a meeting. As I say, I . . . the incredible thing is the story, well documented about the crowds at a lynching you know, which included women too. I'm sure they must be true but I never saw such a woman. And I just can't in any way picture any sort of woman that would ever . . . whose path I'd ever crossed that would do a thing like that.