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Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 28, 1974. Interview G-0029-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Guion Griffis Johnson was a preeminent sociologist, educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the 1920s. In this interview (the third in a four-part series), Johnson focuses primarily on her education, her work with the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRSS) during the 1920s and 1930s, her participation in the Carnegie-Myrdal Study of the Negro in America, and the challenges of being a woman academic during that era. Johnson begins with a brief discussion of her formative years in Greenville, Texas, focusing on how her father had provided a model of racial tolerance and that she grew up believing women should have the same opportunities as men. In 1924, Johnson began her doctoral degree, alongside her husband, Guy B. Johnson, at UNC. Both worked for the newly formed IRSS, spearheaded by Howard Odum, and aligned themselves with those on campus who shared their progressive views on race relations. In describing her work with the IRSS, Johnson focuses on some of the opposition the Institute faced from various sectors of the academic community. During the 1930s, Johnson and her husband became well-versed in the history of race relations in the South and the sociology of race. As a result, they both joined the Carnegie-Myrdal Study for the Study of the Negro in America in 1939. Johnson describes the research and writing they did for the study, as well as her interactions with Gunnar Myrdal and other members of the study. In addition to discussing her work in southern race relations, Johnson speaks at length throughout the interview about the challenges she faced as a female academic. She offers several anecdotes regarding her efforts to challenge salary disparities and describes her experiences as one of the few women graduate students at UNC and as a professor. Finally, Johnson discusses what it was like to be half of a so-called "husband and wife team" in academia. Throughout the interview, Johnson touches on the challenges and experiences of academics with progressive views of both race and gender from the 1920s into the early 1940s.
    Excerpts
  • Establishing racially progressive outlook early in life
  • Tensions among UNC academics about racial issues
  • Challenges of being a woman in academia in the 1920s
  • Opposition to Langston Hughes's visit to UNC
  • The Institute for Research in Social Science and reactions to it at UNC
  • Husband-wife academic teams and difficulties in maintaining equal footing
  • Working on the Carnegie-Myrdal Study of the Negro in America
  • Trying to assuage race-based tensions with a coworker
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Resources for Educators
  • Southern Women Trailblazers Learning Object
  • Subjects
  • Southern States--Race relations
  • Women's rights
  • School integration
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.