Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Anne Queen, November 22, 1976. Interview G-0049-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Alternatives to radical politics in the South

Queen discusses how the formation of organizations such as the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen and the Southern Regional Council served as alternatives to more radical political associations during the 1930s and early 1940s. According to Queen, links to Communism and Marxism often generated hysteria in the South and organizations that combined Christianity with radical politics seemed more palatable.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Anne Queen, November 22, 1976. Interview G-0049-2. 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

JOSEPH HERZENBERG:
This question of how many people are involved in radical activity came up in the discussion in Hillsborough last week, when the jury was out during the play version of the Junius Scales trial. And someone asked Joe Straley, who was there, how many people he thought were involved in the Communist Party in this area in the late forties or early fifties. And he seemed to think that it was at most between a dozen and twenty people.
ANNE QUEEN:
Oh, really.
JOSEPH HERZENBERG:
And I wonder what you make of the very small numbers of people who are active in radical activity, and the reaction which those small numbers elicit from the population of the state at large.
ANNE QUEEN:
Well, it's always troubled me that there was so much fear in the face of this small group of people. I think in this community, and maybe throughout the South, one of the organizations that offered an alternative to some of these groups was the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen and the Southern Regional Council, though the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen was working more on the cutting edge at that time of some of the issues that the left-wing groups claimed to be working in. But I think it offered an alternative. I know that it offered an alternative in the days when Reinhold Niebuhr and Scottie Cowan and John Bennett and those people organized it. Because there were people in the church in the South who were turning to Marxism and to the Communist Party because they felt they had no alternative, and this group of people got together and organized the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen.
JOSEPH HERZENBERG:
Which is designed to show that there is an alternative to Marxism.
ANNE QUEEN:
That's right, or to communism. There may have been some of those who were students of Marx and who were committed to what would be called Christian Marxism.
JOSEPH HERZENBERG:
But it seems to me that it really didn't make much difference whether the radicals or communists or other kinds of Marxists or even not Marxists at all, that the reaction to these groups is at times almost hysterical.
ANNE QUEEN:
Oh, it was hysterical. And you know, there were a number of people in Chapel Hill who demonstrated hysteria.