Ella Baker was an instrumental figure in the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In this interview, she offers a candid analysis of the formation of those organizations and an insider's perspective on the role of and interactions between various civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Jean Fairfax first moved to the South in 1942, where she became involved with the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen for several years. Fairfax describes the goals and activities of the Fellowship, discusses the role of leadership in the Fellowship, and draws connections between her work with the Fellowship in the 1940s and her later involvement with the civil rights movement from the late 1950s on.
John Lewis served as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966. In this interview, Lewis outlines his role within the civil rights movement through his participation in the sit-in movement of 1960 in Nashville, the Freedom Rides through Alabama and Mississippi in 1961, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, the Selma voter registration drive in 1965, and the shift towards the politics of black power within SNCC by 1966. Throughout the interview, he situates the activities of SNCC within the civil rights movement more broadly, focusing on issues of leadership, religion, and politics.
Frances Pauley was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia, during the early twentieth century. An advocate for the poor and of racial integration, Pauley served as president of the Georgia League of Women Voters in the 1940s and 1950s, where she focused specifically on integration of public schools. In 1960, she became director of the Georgia Council on Human Relations and worked within the civil rights movement to promote African American leadership and interracial organizations.
Virginia Grantham discusses her thoughts on the Fellowship of Southern Churchman and her participation in it, primarily during the 1950s. In the interview, she focuses on such topics as leadership, socialism, and connections to the civil rights movement.
Julian Bond recounts a life of civil rights activism in the American South. He discusses his work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and his connection with other activists, including Ella Baker, Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, and Stokely Carmichael.
Sociologist Hylan Lewis describes his experiences with race in the American South in the post-World War II period.
Civil rights activist Virginia Foster Durr describes her involvement in the nascent civil rights movement of the 1940s and 1950s.
Conrad Odell Pearson grew up in Durham, North Carolina. After obtaining his law degree at Howard School of Law in the early 1930s, Pearson returned to Durham, where he became actively involved in legal struggles against segregation in higher education. In this interview, he describes his participation in various civil rights activities, his perception of African American leaders James Shepard and C. C. Spaulding, and race relations in Durham.
African American civil rights activist Modjeska Simkins describes her upbringing in a prosperous family during the early twentieth century. She charts her work with the Tuberculosis Association, the NAACP, and the Richland County Citizens' Committee. Throughout the interview, Simkins offers telling anecdotes about racial tensions in South Carolina, the inner workings of civil rights organizations, and relationships between leaders of the movement.
Marion Wright was one of a group of white southerners who sought to tackle the entrenched racism of the twentieth-century South. As a member of the Southern Regional Council (SRC), he sought to do so without direct action. This interview is a portrait of a civil rights leader in the era before the movement was defined by public protest.
Civil rights activist Floyd McKissick evaluates the legacies of the civil rights movement and looks toward its next phase in the 1970s.
A northerner who followed his passion for justice south, David Burgess spent his life living his religious convictions through a devotion to economic and racial justice. Burgess recalls his involvement with some vanguard rights organizations, such as the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, a group Burgess believes laid the foundation for a civil rights movement motivated by Christian beliefs.
Septima Clark describes the work of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, especially the community education programs that she directed for the SCLC and the Highlander Folk School. She rejoices in the new voters and civil rights legislation that resulted from their work but noticed drawbacks arising from prejudice against female leaders, disdain for the poor, and clashes in leadership styles.
Sociologist Guy B. Johnson describes his path to sociology and recalls his participation in the Southern Regional Council in the 1940s.
Howard Fuller began his activism in Durham, North Carolina, as a student volunteer for the North Carolina Fund. His experiences as an activist for low-income black residents shaped his lifelong work and involvement in anti-poverty campaigns.
Ruth Vick describes her tenure at the Southern Regional Council (SRC), an interracial organization committed to racial justice in the South. The SRC supported the direct action strategies of the civil rights movement that emerged in force in the 1950s and 1960s, but chose study over sit-ins as a means of change. This interview addresses this decision as well as decades of internal disputes.
This interview with Dr. Guy B. Johnson, sociology professor and author, focuses on his work as the first executive director of the Southern Regional Council (SRC) and as a member of the North Carolina Committee for Interracial Cooperation. Johnson discusses the role that women and church groups played in the Interracial Commission, describes the debate over issues such as segregation among SRC members, and outlines the conflict between SRC leaders and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.
Civil rights activist Floyd McKissick was the first African American student to enroll in the law school at the University of North Carolina. In this interview, he discusses that integration effort, along with subsequent integration battles he faced as a student and as an advocate for civil rights.
Grace Towns Hamilton was raised in Atlanta, where both of her parents were involved in community service and issues of social justice. Following family tradition, Hamilton was an active participant in the YWCA during the 1920s, and during the 1940s and 1950s she was the director for Atlanta's Urban League. She describes her work with these organizations, focusing on issues of segregation, education, voter registration, and housing.
Former executive director of the Southern Regional Council (SRC) Leslie Dunbar discusses his involvement in the civil rights movement, focusing on changes that occurred in the early 1960s. Dunbar describes the SRC as an organization dedicated to changing people's attitudes about race. He emphasizes the SRC's attempts to work with the federal government—particularly the Kennedy administration—and other civil rights organizations, especially in the Voter Education Program.
Modjeska Simkins describes growing up in a prosperous African American family, going to school, and her thoughts on "color consciousness" during her childhood in Columbia, South Carolina. In addition, she discusses her involvement in the South Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation and other race organizations beginning in the 1920s, her thoughts on women's unique capabilities as leaders of social justice movements, and the nature of racial tension in the South.
Southern sociologist and civil rights activist Arthur Raper discusses his interactions with Jessie Daniel Ames and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching during his tenure as the research director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation from 1926 to 1939. Raper describes Ames as an effective but contentious leader.
Elizabeth Brooks was one of the leaders of the UNC Food Workers Strike of 1969. As a new worker in the Lenoir Dining Hall, Brooks helped to organize the food workers with the help of Preston Dobbins and the Black Student Movement. This interview focuses on the first strike, which was sparked by the unexpected firing of one worker, low wages, and withheld back pay for overtime.
Charles Jones led the First Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill as pastor in the late 1940s. He describes his education and ministry in this interview, the controversies during his time at the church, and his eventual expulsion.
Birmingham politician Arthur Shores offers his thoughts on the intersection of race and politics in his home city.
Bishop Paul Hardin helped bring about racial integration of the United Methodist denomination in the 1960s. He recalls several points in his long ministry career when white and black pastors opposed his efforts to move ministers to other districts, accept church members of other races, and dissolve the Black Methodist district. Supportive church members helped him withstand criticism of his personal stance, even when he faced pressure from conservative ministers on one side and Martin Luther King on the other.
Anne Queen spent ten years working for the Champion Paper and Fibre Company in North Carolina before continuing her education at Berea College and Yale Divinity School during the 1940s. In this interview, she describes her life as a worker, her advocacy of social justice causes, her experiences in higher education, and her work at University of Georgia, with the Friends Service Committee, and the YWCA-YMCA at University of North Carolina.
Terry Sanford was a North Carolina governor and Democratic United States senator. This interview describes his political career since 1960, including his unsuccessful presidential runs and his term as president of Duke University.
Daniel Pollitt describes the process of desegregation in the South. He discusses his involvement with civil rights activism and his relationship with progressive organizations and prominent North Carolinians, including UNC law school dean Henry Brandis and UNC basketball coach Dean Smith.
Septima Clark served as a board member and education director for the Highlander Folk School and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s and 1960s. She links her activism to the memory of her parents' struggles with poverty and racism. She also describes how community relations functioned within the NAACP and SCLC. Her plans for increasing community involvement, protecting the labor rights of black teachers, and educating black voters were often ignored because she was female. She discusses why these types of gender roles persisted in the SCLC and the role of leaders in the black community.
In this second part of an extensive two-part interview series, Viola Turner discusses race relations in Durham and her experiences working for North Carolina Mutual. Turner offers vivid and detailed anecdotes that reveal the intricate social and professional network of Durham, primarily in the 1920s and 1930s.
James M. Lawson was a key ally of Martin Luther King Jr. and also an important theoretician and practitioner of nonviolent protest. In this interview, he speaks about his relationship with some of the civil rights figures of the time, including Will Campbell, Kelly Miller Smith, Nelle Morton, Myles Horton, James Dombrowski, and James Holloway.
Latrelle McAllister remembers a nurturing, vibrant environment at West Charlotte High School and worries that this ethos may be at risk.
Asa T. Spaulding, the first African American actuary in North Carolina and former president of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, remembers and reflects on community activism in Durham, North Carolina.
Sheila Florence, among the first African Americans to desegregate Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, remembers growing up in the segregated South and working to end desegregation.
Lyman Johnson traces his lifelong pursuit of racial equality through his father's rejection of racial hierarchies, his experiences as an educated black Navy solder, his observations of racial violence, and his efforts to get equal pay and union representation for Louisville teachers.
Harvey E. Beech describes his journey to becoming a lawyer fighting for legal justice. In 1951, he was one of five students who made up the first group of African Americans to attend the University of North Carolina School of Law. Beech assesses the racial changes since the mid-twentieth century and discusses racism in contemporary America.
Southern sociologist Guion Griffis Johnson describes her work with the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare during the 1940s and her involvement with the women's movement and civil rights activism during the 1960s and 1970s in North Carolina. She discusses strategies for effecting change, the achievements of the Georgia Conference in promoting awareness of social welfare and race-related issues, and the progress of women and African Americans in their struggle for equality.