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Oral History Interview with Louise Young, February 14, 1972. Interview G-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Louise Young was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1892 and grew up there with her seven siblings. The Young family highly valued education, and Louise and her brothers and sisters were all expected to attend college—Vanderbilt University for the boys, Vassar College for the girls. Young, however, attended Vanderbilt with her brothers. Vanderbilt had become a coeducational institution, although men still constituted a disproportionate majority of the student body. While at Vanderbilt, Young studied to become a teacher, graduating at the age of sixteen. She spent the next three years working towards her graduate degrees while studying on fellowship at the University of Wisconsin and Bryn Mawr College. While living in the North, Young became increasingly cognizant of her own lack of knowledge of the nature of race relations in the South and became determined to better understand and combat racial injustice. Having grown up in a Methodist home with relatively progressive racial politics, Young explains that her upbringing had led her to believe in the basic equality of all people, although she acknowledges that others with similar backgrounds did not share her progressive views on race at that time.

    In 1919, Young accepted a position teaching at Paine College, an African American institution of higher learning, in Augusta, Georgia. She taught there for several years and describes what it was like to work with a predominantly African American faculty. In 1922, Young resigned from her post at Paine College and was hired as the Dean of Women at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, where she continued her work in African American education. She suggests that racial dynamics at Hampton Institute were different from those at Paine College because of the role of white educators from the North. Three years later, in 1925, Young was appointed director of the Department of Home Missions at Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee. Young explains that her position essentially was geared towards facilitating race relations between students at Scarritt College and Fisk University in Nashville. In particular, she worked with white students at Scarritt who were commissioned by the church to draw in African American membership and to work within the community to promote better relationships between the races. Young held this position for more than thirty years—she discusses in great detail the role of women's church groups (especially in relationship to men's groups), dynamics between students at Scarritt and at Fisk, and efforts of the Home Missions Department to advocate for integration in Nashville. In addition, Young describes her involvement with women's groups, such as the YWCA and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, and her support of labor activism during the 1930s and 1940s, specifically as espoused by the Highland Folk School in Tennessee. Throughout the interview, Young consistently emphasizes themes of social justice in relationship to race, gender, and class.

    Excerpts
  • Southern woman decides to attend Vanderbilt University over Vassar
  • Family's social mobility and goal to educate daughters
  • Becoming aware of southern race issues and teaching at an African American school
  • Motivation to teach at Paine College and first impressions
  • Interacting with the African American community in Augusta, Georgia
  • Faculty and students at the Hampton Institute
  • Isolated incident of racial tension at the Hampton Institute
  • Southern women and church groups
  • Relationships between students at Scarritt College and Fisk University
  • Leadership style of Jessie Daniel Ames
  • Changing nature of race relations over the course of the 20th century
  • Description of the Highlander Folk School
  • Perception of and admiration for leadership role of Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching
  • Highlander Folk School (Monteagle, Tenn.)
  • Women teachers
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.