Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Olive Stone, August 13, 1975. Interview G-0059-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Decision to leave Huntingdon College

Stone describes her decision to leave Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. According to Stone her decision was in part fueled by the potentially negative impact her involvement in radical politics could have on the school. Although she was not asked to leave, she suggests that her interest in issues of social justice necessitated a career change. In addition, she was intent upon continuing her field research and trying to find funding for the Committee for People's Rights, which she was trying to organize.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Olive Stone, August 13, 1975. Interview G-0059-4. 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

SHERNA GLUCK:
Well Olive, when did you decide to make the move and leave Huntingdon? What was the motivation behind it?
OLIVE STONE:
Well, first of all the fact that I felt that Dr. Agnew was having to take extra precautions to try to prevent any harm to Huntingdon. He didn't ever tell me that some of the D.A.R.-type people would come out and protest that I was the "Red Dean," you know. Perfectly ridiculous but people kept asking me to talk about Russia. And by the way, I explained the attitude that Russians had towards red as a color; that red was beautiful and they used "red and black", instead of "white and black". But that still didn't assuage the critics. I also was feeling that I would have to suppress myself if I stayed on and honored the needs that I felt Huntingdon justifiably had. President Agnew never would have fired me.
SHERNA GLUCK:
And by this time you were becoming more involved in some of these racial things and more progressive …
OLIVE STONE:
Yes. I don't think that the sharecroppers would have been any special issue, because I didn't feel that I needed to do any more than I did for a very brief time there when the organizers were seeking financial aid. But a good many people were coming into the South or writing that they would like to come into the South and get progressive programs going. While I was sympathetic, I didn't feel that I would help their causes if I became known as the radical at Huntingdon. So it was a conscious decision, I think, also I had gotten just a little restive at Huntingdon; I felt it was rather parochial [laughter] in many ways. Some of the people weren't; we had professors there from many parts of the country: one from Evanston, Illinois; and others from, you know, various places. And there was this lovely man from Copenhagen [laughter] . But it was a provincial place, and I was spreading myself too thin.
SHERNA GLUCK:
Now had you already decided, then, to go ahead with your Doctorate at that point?
OLIVE STONE:
No. I had felt, as I wrote Dr. Agnew (and it's in the correspondence here) that I was reluctant to go to a university for fear it would cripple what I wanted to do in research by having me conform to certain forms of the dissertation, and I wanted to do more field work. What I had decided on was to use this historical study I had done on Alabama as background for research on modern times. Through the TVA's beneficence I had hired people to research the newspapers in the Ala Archives, I had obtained some perfectly magnificent data from that early period; what some of the newly-freed blacks were trying to do. They got suppressed, but they were trying to do things! At any rate, I wanted to use that and I wanted to make a field study, which later the University of N.C. encouraged. I went to Chapel Hill in January 1935, and in the first half of the summer did my field research in Alabama.
SHERNA GLUCK:
But when you left Huntingdon, then, you had no intention of going for Doctoral study?
OLIVE STONE:
Not really or perhaps I should say not a settled intention. I held it in the back of my mind, but I wanted to combine research with civil rights work. I wanted to do it on my own if I could get a foundation, but I didn't manage to do that.
SHERNA GLUCK:
I see. So in other words, that summer you were looking for foundation support both for the Committee for People's Rights and for your own sociological research?
OLIVE STONE:
Yes. I got hospitality, such as being made a "Visiting Scholar" at Brookings Institution, where I could use their library and where I met interesting people. And I had a small grant for research at the Library of Congress. I don't know what else I was living on in this time; I must have saved a little money [laughter]