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Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin was a southern writer, academic sociologist, and social activist. Born in 1897, Lumpkin grew up in Macon, Georgia, where the "Lost Cause" was championed by her father and her intellect was fostered by her mother. Lumpkin describes what it was like to grow up in this southern family, which later served as the basis for her autobiographical The Making of a Southerner (1947). After offering her family background as context, Lumpkin argues that she wrote her book out of her gradual realization that race was culturally constructed and that she hoped to improve race relations by raising awareness of how she herself grew to be conscious of its construction and its social functions. Central to Lumpkin's own cognizance of race relations was her work with the YWCA while a student at Brenau College and as its national student secretary for the South during the early 1920s. Speaking of her work with the YWCA, Lumpkin stresses the importance of the social gospel to the work of the YWCA. In particular, Lumpkin describes how race relations and industrial conditions were of primary concern to the YWCA. In addition to discussing the role of African American women in the YWCA, Lumpkin explains how the YWCA worked to ease tensions between women of divergent groups by developing collaborative, interracial groups and by promoting awareness of challenges working women faced by way of the Industrial Department. Lumpkin also discusses her decision to leave the YWCA in 1925 in order to pursue her doctoral degree in sociology at University of Wisconsin. Having already earned her master's degree in the late 1910s, Lumpkin returned to academe and remained there until her retirement in 1967. In this interview, Lumpkin's discussion of her academic work is largely centered on her graduate work and her earlier career in academe. She concludes the interview by briefly describing her research on Angelina and Sarah Grimke; her relationship with her sister, proletariat novelist Grace Lumpkin, and the similarities and differences in their career trajectories; her role in the Institute of Labor Studies; and her book, South in Progress (1940).
  • Father's lament for the "Lost Cause"
  • Cultural conditioning of ideas of race
  • Mother's education described as a prized family possession
  • The social gospel and the YWCA
  • Explaining why women were more socially progressive than men
  • Role of race and class in YWCA leadership in the 1920s
  • Industrial Department of the YWCA
  • Outlining the two primary concerns of the YWCA
  • Giving middle-class women industrial experience for the YWCA
  • Lack of discrimination as a woman professional
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Southern States--Race relations
  • Children--Employment--Laws and legislation
  • Young Women's Christian associations
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Institute of Labor Studies
  • 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.