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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.
This collection was rehoused with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access, 1990-1992.
|Size||12.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 13,000 items)|
|Abstract||The Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, organized in 1934, was an interdenominational, interracial group of southern church people (clergy and laity) interested in race relations, anti-Semitism, rural dependency, labor conditions, and other social problems. Early papers, 1937-1944, are largely copies of reports and publications and some material relating to Howard Kester, general secretary of the Fellowship, 1937-1944; Thomas B. Cowan, chair, 1937-1946, and Charles M. Jones, acting general secretary in 1944. The largest portion of the collection consists of the office files, 1945-1949, of Nelle Morton, general secretary at the organization's headquarters in Chapel Hill, N.C., including routine correspondence concerning membership, conferences, applications and acceptances of work camp staff, and project planning. Also included are the office files, 1950-1957, primarily of Howard Kester at Black Mountain, N.C., but also of Charles M. Jones, 1951-1952; David S. Burgess; and Francis A. Drake. Kester's files contain information about relations with other organizations and individuals with similar interests and the Fellowship's financial structure. Later materials are primarily membership lists.|
|Creator||Fellowship of Southern Churchmen.|
The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.
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The Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, originally known as the Younger Churchmen of the South, called its first meeting at Monteagle, Tenn., 27-29 May 1934, and met again later that year. At its third meeting, held 11 November 1935, it adopted the new name. The Fellowship was an interdenominational, interracial group of southern church people (clergy and laymen) seeking to apply the Christian faith to social problems in the South. While changes in conditions caused shifts in emphasis and specific policies, the group's interests centered on race relations, anti-Semitism, rural dependence, and labor conditions.
The Fellowship sponsored workshops, work camps, conferences, and institutes throughout the South to advance the aims of the organization. Because the program was interracial and interdenominational, these activities served to promote the Fellowship's purpose of promoting human understanding and cooperation among people of different backgrounds. The Fellowship did extensive work with students, one of its aims being to bring southern students to choose vocations with a religious and social sense of mission. The Fellowship also promoted and participated in special schools and institutes for rural ministers and laymen.
The organization maintained close cooperation with other groups with similar interests and goals, i.e., the American Friends Service Committee; the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the Congress of Racial Equality; and many church, student, and labor groups. The Fellowship sponsored an organization known as Friends of the Soil, which sought to strengthen rural churches and join with them in encouraging and promoting better use of the soil, diversity and abundance in agriculture, and better economic and social arrangements. Friends of the Soil also sponsored legislation to promote the welfare of rural America.
The Fellowship also dealt with many emergency local situations involving issues of tenancy, labor, anti-Semitism, and other forms of discrimination.
"Prophetic Religion," a mimeographed periodical, was the official organ of the Fellowship. It contained some news of the organization's activities, but seems to have been primarily concerned with discussions of faith and of topics relevant to the aims of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. The "Newsletter" was another mimeographed publication, designed to keep members and friends of the group informed of the work of the Fellowship and especially of its General Secretary. "Fellowship Student News," as suggested by the title, was similar to the "Newsletter," but written for student members. Aside from these regular publications, the Fellowship often issued special pamphlets concerning outstanding work of social significance being carried on by a southern minister or church group. They also published, or reprinted and distributed, pamphlets publicizing and condemning things such as the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow practices.Back to Top
Records of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen include early papers, 1937-1944, that are largely copies of reports and publications and some material relating to Howard Kester, general secretary of the Fellowship, 1937-1944; Thomas B. Cowan, chair, 1937-1946; and Charles M. Jones, acting general secretary in 1944. The largest portion of the collection consists of the office files, 1945-1949, of Nelle Morton, general secretary at the organization's headquarters in Chapel Hill, N.C., including routine correspondence concerning membership, conferences, applications and acceptances of work camp staff, and project planning. Also included are the office files, 1950-1957, primarily of Howard Kester at Black Mountain, N.C., but also of Charles M. Jones, 1951-1952; David S. Burgess; and Francis A. Drake. Kester's files contain information about relations with other organizations and individuals interested in race relations, anti-Semitism, rural dependency, labor conditions, and other social issues and with the Fellowship's financial structure. Later materials are primarily membership lists.Back to Top
Mimeographed reports and publications, along with some correspondence beginning in 1941 and some financial records. These are files of Howard Kester, who was general secretary from 1937 (or earlier) to 1944 and of Thomas B. Cowan, who was chair, 1937-1946. The papers of 1944 include some correspondence of Charles M. Jones, acting general secretary, and Nelle Morton, then at the Presbyterian Building, Richmond, Va.
Files of Nelle Morton, general secretary, consist largely of business correspondence of a routine nature, i.e., letters soliciting contributions; announcements of conferences and plans for them; recruiting of work campers, prospective campers' applications, notifications of acceptance, and plans for the camps; recruiting of new members; planning committee meetings; and soliciting and distributing subscriptions to "Prophetic Religion" and arranging for exchanges of publications.
Some of the papers contain descriptive material. For example, in their effort to interest prospective members, contributors, work campers, the Secretary and other officers gave some detailed information about the organization and its projects. Work campers wrote summaries, some of which were quite informative, of their experiences in camp. Also, in addition to mimeographed communications sent by the organization, there was often correspondence among members concerning events of special interest, such as the Sweatt case, or the Journey of Reconciliation to test the court ruling on desegregation in common carriers in interstate commerce, 1947, or new uprisings of the Ku Klux Klan. Among other events reflected in the papers are mob action at Columbia, N.C., which forced Fellowship work campers to leave their project (the construction of a credit union building) in the summer of 1947, and the arrest of Fellowship members in Atlanta, Ga., because of an interracial student folk dance party in the summer of 1948.
Throughout the files there are financial reports, membership lists, lists of contributions, and scattered papers of other officers and committee chairs. The successive presidents or chairs were Thomas B. Cowan, 1937-1946, 1949; Howard Kester, 1947-1948; Charles M. Jones, 1950-1951; and Neal Hughley, beginning in 1952.
Among the treasurers and finance committee chairs during the years, 1937-1957, were William W. McKee, George R. Bent, Allyn Robinson, Warren Ashby, Sadie Hughley, Charles M. Jones, and J. C. Herrin. The two members most actively concerned in the Friends of the Soil appear to have been Francis Drake and Eugene Smathers. David Burgess served many terms as chair of the labor committee, and in the 1950s, was chair of the board of trustees of the Fellowship Center. Walter Sikes served at one time as chair of the executive committee and also as chair of publications.
The papers for 1951 and 1952 include files of the Reverend Charles M. Jones, chair, who was also performing some of the duties of general secretary between the time Nelle Morton left in September 1949 and the time Howard Kester took over. There are also some papers of David S. Burgess, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Fellowship Center in western North Carolina, and papers of Francis A. Drake of the Friends of the Soil.
Howard Kester's correspondence began in June 1951, when he was living at Brasstown, N.C., and became more voluminous when he assumed his office as executive secretary in February 1952, establishing his headquarters at Black Mountain, N.C. The papers for 1953-1957 are almost entirely Kester's files and include carbon copies of letters written by Kester; letters received from other persons in the Fellowship; other correspondence and related papers, particularly correspondence with other organizations and individuals having similar aims; and audits, budgets, mimeographed releases.
Undated and Miscellaneous Papers
Undated items include letters, lists, committee reports and minutes, papers relating to the Journey of Reconciliation, papers of Friends of the Soil, work camp reports, and other items.
Volumes contain membership lists, 1937-1942; financial records, 1938-1941, 1944-1946, 1947-1952; accounts for "Prophetic Religion," 1941; membership records of Friends of the Soil, 1942-1943; and registration for a meeting in Raleigh, N.C., March 1943.
There are five black-and-white photographs of groups or individuals.
|Image Folder PF-3479/1|
There have been three small additions to the collection. The addition of June 1982 (Acc. 82095) contains letters, a note, and a postcard, 1974 and 1978, from Nelle Morton to Anthony Dunbar and Howard Kester, describing Morton's work in the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen in the late 1940s. The addition of August 1986 (Acc. 86105) contains a printout, a floppy disk (5 1/4"), a backup floppy disk, and a codesheet documenting membership of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. The disk may not be copied and may not be used to produce ASCII files of the data or any form of file for statistical analysis or other manipulation. The addition of January 2004 (Acc. 99696) contains correspondence, 1977-1979, of Elizabeth M. Kester and J. Andrew Lipscomb about a possible book about Howard Kester, as well as information about Kester's memorial services, a few letters from other people, a few writings of Howard Kester, and photographs of a banner that became the logo of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen.
Photographs of a banner that became the logo of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen were added in January 2004.
|Floppy Disc FLD-3479/1|
Processed by: SHC Staff
Encoded by: Linda Sellars, February 2004
Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, March 2010
This collection was rehoused with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access, 1990-1992.Back to Top