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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Working with the YWCA and discussing the Y's racial politics

Hamilton discusses her work with the YWCA, first as a student at Atlanta University during the mid-1920s and later on as the girl's work secretary at the African American branch in Columbus, Ohio. Hamilton explains here how she believed the YWCA to be especially progressive for the day, specifically in reference to its racial politics. Although she describes here how conferences were segregated, she believed the YWCA tended to transgress racial barriers sooner than other organizations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. 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

Well, I had been very active in the student association at the school, both locally, and then I had been elected a vice-president of the National Student Assembly, when I was a sophomore, I think it was. So that, you know, I was interested in the program of the YWCA. And that was one job offer, and the reason I… I know the reason I decided to go there was because I it as an opportunity to go to graduate school, as I did, after the first semester. And I did my graduate work in psychology at Ohio State.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, I see. Tell me a little bit about the racial policies of the YWCA at that time. It seems to me that at least before 1920, and maybe after, the Y in the South was segregated.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, the Y… the thing to remember about the YWCA is that though they were like most institutions, they, I think, provided the cutting edge in raising the question and modifying their own practices.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Even in the South?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, yes, even in the South. Earlier than any other institution. I know much before the YWCA was so bold as to question the practices, because…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where and when did that begin?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, that began even when I was a student. I graduated from college in 1927, and there were Negro members of the, what was then called the Regional Student Council, elected from all the student associations across the country. But there was… there would be… the conferences were segregated conferences. Summer conferences, which the major program event in the college YWCA. There were segregated conferences.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they held at Blue Ridge?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
The white conference was held at Blue Ridge, and the Negro conference was held at College, most frequently. The one in the southern region. And the YWCA had an integrated council. The Negro members were elected from the conference, and the white members were elected from Blue Ridge. And then they'd have their joint council meetings. But it was a big deal about finding places for the meeting in the region, and much todo. But that is the origin of the YWCA's early questioning, and they… From that period on, they were, you know, among the groups that were regarded as radical, because they presumed to…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a difference between the student council… the student part of the Y and the…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, it was a unit. It was a business unit And I think the student… I think the student department was always the cutting edge at that period, but they also participated… were a part of the national convention, where policy was made. So they would have their impact on… the student movement, I think, would have its … I know it had its impact on moving the whole YWCA organization ahead in the area of race relations.