Between 1974 and 1978, the Chapel Hill Historical Society conducted interviews with men and women who had lived and worked in and around Chapel Hill and Carrboro during the early twentieth century. One of their first projects, “Generations of Carrboro Mill Families” consisted of 117 interviews with Carrboro residents and textile mill workers. The interviews were in response to the Carrboro Board of Alderman’s decision to tear down the original Carr Mill building. For a rather complicated, and long-winded reason, the Southern Historical Collection holds 40 of the 117 interviews conducted, both the audio cassette tapes and their 30-50 page typed transcripts. Question topics run the gamut, and there was a clear effort on the part of the Chapel Hill Historical Society interviewers to gather information about “everyday life.”
Some of this work is captured in Valerie Quinney’s article, “Mill Village Memories” published in Southern Exposure in Fall 1980. Quinney was one of the interviewers from the Chapel Hill Historical Society in the 1970s. She offers a meaningful overview of the oral history collection and provides supportive context. Although she includes direct quotes, there’s value in the raw format of the interview collection that is worth pursuing.
UNC’s Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) collects interviews with Southerners who have made significant contributions to a variety of fields and interviews that will render historically visible those whose experience is not reflected in traditional written sources. The Southern Historical Collection is the repository for oral histories collected by the SOHP.
The SOHP has digitized 500 interviews from the collection, through a project called Oral Histories of the American South. Periodically, “Southern Sources” will share links to audio of selected SOHP interviews.
Today, we are pleased to feature an SOHP interview with Andrew Young. Andrew Young was the first African American congressman from Georgia since Reconstruction. First elected in 1972, Young was later appointed as ambassador to the United Nations by Jimmy Carter.
In this SOHP interview, Young discusses the nature of racial discrimination in the South and describes his involvement in voter registration drives. Throughout the interview, he draws comparisons between race relations within southern states and those between the North and South. According to Young, it was access to political power that ultimately altered the tides of racial prejudice in the South. He cites the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a decisive turning point in race relations. For Young, it was the election of African Americans to positions of power that allowed African Americans to bring to fruition other advances they had made in education, business, and social standing.
Our partners at Documenting the American South (DocSouth), a digital publishing initiative sponsored by the University Library at UNC Chapel Hill, have just published a very interesting feature on their website about the history of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC). In addition to the essay on CIC’s history, DocSouth provides links to digitized oral histories and documents on the site.
Here’s a snippet of the essay:
“In 1919, a small group of men met in Atlanta to form the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), selecting Will Winton Alexander as their first director. North Carolina launched a state division in 1921. This month, Documenting the American South recognizes the 90th anniversary of the formation of this ground-breaking civil rights organization.” [Click here to read the rest of the history…]
[Each month we feature a “creator” or one of the SHC’s manuscript collections. In archival terms, a creator is defined as an individual, group, or organization that is responsible for a collection’s production, accumulation, or formation.]
Guion Griffis Johnson of Chapel Hill, N.C., was a professor, author, scholar, journalist, women’s advocate, and general civic leader. Johnson held a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina. She published three books: A Social History of the Sea Islands (1930), Antebellum North Carolina (1937), and Volunteers in Community Service (1967). Her husband was Guy Johnson, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the 1920s and 1930s, Johnson and her husband worked together at the Institute for Research in Social Science at University of North Carolina. Continue reading “Creator of the Month… Guion Griffis Johnson”
Southern Conference for Human Welfare
20-23 November 1938, Birmingham Ala.
This is a pamphlet from a third interracial conference attended by Olive M. Stone. Inside it describes topics to be discussed at the conference, as well as the purpose of having such a conference: bringing together progressive leaders in the South.
“The Conference issues an urgent invitation to all Southern progressives -individuals and organizations- to attend its sessions and participate in the discussions and conference decisions on suggested remedies for Southern ills. Subjects to be discussed will include public health, education, child labor and youth problems, race relations, prison reform, labor relations, farm tenancy, suffrage, and constitutional rights…
…There are many liberal thinkers and leaders in the South. Their number is rapidly increasing. Progressive ideas and the desire for progressive action are spreading. Their leaders have heretofore been isolated and scattered, the effectiveness of their work limited by lack of coordination. It is believed that the Conference, by providing a meeting ground for all Southern progressives, will promost mutual trust and cooperation between them for greater service to the South.”
Olive M. Stone, an Alabama native, was a sociologist whose work focused on social welfare, race relations, and southern farmers. That’s her, pictured here in Russia, 1931. Stone’s involvement in civil rights and radical politics brought her to a number of southern and northern interracial conferences in the 1930s. This post is the first of three that will highlight some of the documents that represent these conferences in the Olive M. Stone Papers, illustrating some of the earlier stirrings of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Swarthmore institute of Race Relations
July 1934, Swarthmore College, P.A.
Stone wrote this evaluation of the conference, praising it for it’s “truly inter-racial character.” The conference was sponsored by Pennsylvania Society of Friends, lasted twenty-nine days, and featured twenty-nine African American speakers. Excerpt:
“Too often, at inter-racial conferences which I have attended in the South, there is a patronizing approach on the part of the whites and an ingratiating appeal from the Negroes. At such meetings, the races usually sit on opposite sides of a public hall and are discreetly careful to discuss only the most flagrant abuses of discrimination which neither would dare challenge; as, for example, the undue cruelty administered to a certain Negro on a “jim-crow” street-car rather than the whole question of segregation in transportation…”