Title: Oral History Interview with Nelle Morton, June 29, 1983. Interview F-0034.
Interviewer: Blanchard, Dallas A.
Interviewee: Morton, Nelle
Subjects: Fellowship of Southern Churchmen Women civil rights workers
Abstract: Nelle Morton grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. In 1925, she graduated from Flora MacDonald College in North Carolina and became a teacher. A few years later, Morton completed graduate work at the General Assembly Training School in Virginia and at the Biblical Seminary in New York City. By 1944, she had become the general secretary of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. Prior to assuming leadership within the Fellowship, Morton had worked closely with its founders. In this interview, she spends considerable time discussing her perception of various leaders within the Fellowship, including Howard "Buck" Kester, Thomas "Scotty" Cowan, Charles Johnson, and Reinhold Niebuhr. According to Morton, the Fellowship was founded in order to promote more radical ideas about race relations and integrations among southern churches. In explaining the goals and strategies of the Fellowship, Morton focuses on aspects of religion in the South, the Fellowship's efforts to ensure integration within their own organization, and its stance on other issues related to labor and rural people. Throughout the interview, she emphasizes the communal spirit of the Fellowship and stresses their pioneering work in integration. Particularly interesting examples she offers include her description of an integrated summer camp for children at her family's farm in Kingsport and efforts of the Fellowship to integrate places like community pools. In addition to describing the strategies, successes, and limitations of the Fellowship, Morton describes how her work with the Fellowship made her cognizant of other inequalities related to gender. She describes the challenges of being a woman leader in the Fellowship; these included the discrimination she faced during her tenure as the general secretary from 1944 to 1950. Morton later became actively involved in the women's movement and suggests here that it was her work with issues of race and labor that enabled her to recognize discrimination against, and oppression of, women.