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Interview with Helen Lewis, September 15, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:08 - Student political involvement

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Partial Transcript: We're glad to welcome Dr. Helen Lewis...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis remembers being one of the first 18-year-olds to vote, serving on the Student League for Good Government, and getting involved with the Jimmy Carmicheal election after graduating from Georgia State College for Women. She discusses her reaction to Carmichael's defeat in the election. She also discusses working as a ghost writer for Melvin Thompson, her marriage, and becoming involved with the YWCA.

Keywords: Georgia State College for Women; Herman Talmadge; Jimmy Carmichael; Student League for Good Government; student involvement; voting

00:15:49 - Social advocacy activism through YWCA

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Partial Transcript: I think it was such as state of depression and such a state of repression...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis talks about the repression of student activism on college campuses during the 1950s, and the decline of the social gospel. She talks about the influence of activists like Clarence Jordan who founded Koinonia farm--which became Habitat for Humanity--and the backlash to these instances of integration.

Keywords: Clarence Jordan; Habitat for Humanity; Koinonia farm; integration; student activism

00:21:27 - Backlash against early racial integration

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Partial Transcript: In looking back in history, what do you think was the turning point...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis talks about the creation of private schools in the south in order to avoid integration. She recounts her experiences of developing relationships with black people at a time when being seen together in public strictly regulated. Lewis also being arrested for racial integration of YWCA-hosted event, and the resulting public backlash and economic consequences.

Keywords: informal segregation; integration; private Christian schools; public pressure

00:32:40 - Resurgance of segregationist politics in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you a question again about Carmichael.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis hypothesizes how Jimmy Carmichael's reelection would have affected racial integration in Georgia. She discusses how the social advocacy work of the YWCA and college organizations became covert and eventually disappeared due to the changing political climate of repression related to integration.

Keywords: Jimmy Carmichael; YWCA; censorship; civil rights movement; repressive politics; segregation; social advocacy

00:39:32 - Advocacy work for miners and Appalachia

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Partial Transcript: Atlanta's business establishment supported Ellis Arnall in his race against Eugene Talmadge...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis recounts moving to Virginia and losing direct involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. She discusses advocating for miners in Appalachia, starting one of the first courses in Appalachian studies, and her criticism against the Appalachian Commission.

Keywords: Appalachia; United Mine Workers; coalfields; mining; social advocacy

00:46:48 - Poverty / Civic education and student participation

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Partial Transcript: What did you think of Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis comments on Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and the structural causes of poverty. She talks about the importance of a civic and political education and of service-learning, and she recounts a service-learning project she participated in through the YWCA.

Keywords: YWCA; civic education; land reform; participation; political invovlement; service-learning; war on poverty

00:54:07 - Teaching philosophy / 1946 gubernatorial election

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Partial Transcript: Well, you certainly have and you've had a wonderful career.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis describes herself as an 'organizer of students' and recounts being fired because of her radical teachings. Lewis and Short discuss the county unit system, contributing factors to the outcome of the 1946 election, and Governor Talmadge's oratory style. Lewis also briefly mentions working for Melvin Thompson.

Keywords: 1946 election; Eugene Talmadge; community organizing; county unit system; oration; radical