Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Many southerners avoid the interracial Highlander Folk School

The Highlander Folk School had difficulty recruiting in southern states because so many people assumed that an interracial organization must be communist, and they feared reprisals during the McCarthy era. Even conversations about church were misconstrued.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. 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

EUGENE WALKER:
Did you encounter difficulty recruiting individuals to be trained to go back to their community and teach?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We did encounter difficulty, because under the name of Highlander, there were too many people in the South who were afraid of Highlander Folk School. It was really a school for problems, but it was designated as a communist outfit, and so that gave us a good bit of trouble in the communities. And until we could go around and have some lectures and explain to the people what we were doing, we couldn't get them at first.
EUGENE WALKER:
Why did Highlander have this communist designation?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because blacks and whites were able to live together and to work together at Highlander, the people of the South had a feeling-in fact, that came out in the McCarthy era-that if blacks and whites mixed, they're bound to have been communists. I had a wonderful experience in the Atlanta airport. A white woman came over to me and was talking about coming from Lake Junaluska. She was really one of the Methodist women that I knew. And another white woman was sitting to the end of the seat didn't know what we were talking about. As soon as this white woman left to go on her plane, she came over to me and said, "What is she talking to you about? Is she telling you about communism?" And I said, "Oh, no. We're church sisters, and we were talking about our churches."