The Fellowship's purpose created large rifts among its membership
The characterization of Myles Horton and Howard "Buck" Kester's creation of the Highlander Folk School and eventual rift over the utility of the Penn School's conference center illuminates a larger, divisive issue occurring within the Fellowship. The Siceloffs explain that the Fellowship's members divided over the organization's primary function—whether to be an engine for religious interests or social change. This is a theme which is expressed throughout the interview.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Elizabeth and Courtney Siceloff, July 8, 1985. Interview F-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
And greatly admired. You know, Myles Horton was admired.
Hounded. And was much more radical than what I'd assume the Fellowship
I think so. Myles was, of course, also nonreligious.
Uh-huh. That's like saying he's not one for literature. I guess his
involvement would be of a nonreligious nature. Social change.
Myles asked Buck to come help him to start Highlander.
Yeah. Buck went to the Fellowship instead in the early 30's and supported
what was going on at Highlander around the late 30's. They had split
over the communist issue. Myles was willing to work with anybody. Not to
be taken in by them but work with them. Buck wouldn't. Myles was more
active as an organizer. Buck wasn't. There was just a real difference in
I never knew that.
In fact, Buck wrote one letter in which he implies he thought Highlander
was his operation, but then decided not to it
from what the Fellowship was doing.
I think that both were such strong individuals that they couldn't have
worked as a team very well, could they?
And Myles felt betrayed by Buck eventually. Buck agreed for the
Fellowship to help sponsor a multigroup meeting and Buck backed out of
it, and said that he had never agreed to do it according to Myles, then
denounced. But that's Myles's version. I just wish Buck were aground so
he could talk a little but about it.
Back to the matter of the conferencing center being the
. It seems to me that there was a period in which
it was either a go or no go business with the conference center. It
seems to me that it was absorbing so much energy and funds and the
director, whoever it was, . . . It must have been Buck at the time. It
was a question of whether to put those energies into organizing groups
and carrying on the movement as opposed to trying to raise the money to
get this thing off the ground. It seems to me that there was a big
decision one time on whether the next meeting ought to be in the
conference center itself as a commitment that we are going to go
through with this. I can't remember if we met
there or not. I guess we met at Warren Wilson.
The health department killed it. You had to have approved outhouses, and
approved water supply, and kitchen and all that. That just could not be
We spent the weekend trying to meet those standards.
But you're right, there was an attempt to have a meeting there, but at
the last minute they had to switch it to Warren Wilson.
I think, as I recall, there was a decision to be made, are we or aren't
we. Let's meet there and show that we are going to go through with it, we
are going to make a go of it. There were others who were
heated discussions whether to say let's not do it
as opposed to let's go there.
The feedback I'm getting now from people like Sadie Hughley and some
others is that the board itself is really divided but those who were for
the camp by David Burgess were so strongly for it and the rest of us . .
Kind of a passion . . .
Yeah and those who were against it weren't so strongly against it so they
remained silent in the executive
But anyway, they just wanted to really maintain it.
They would have had everything all finished.
Somebody at Vanderbilt, he thought he could get a grant to buy it for
$50,000 or something like that.
That would have changed the course of a lot of . . .
It's probably just as well that they didn't get it.
They probably would have . . . It would have been more like a church