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"Millways" Remembered: A Conversation with Kenneth and Margaret Morland There are three major versions or styles of living in Kent: that of the "town" whites, that of the "poor white" mill villagers, and that of the Negroes. These three groups form the larger society of Kent. Each exhibits a distinctive organization of customs, attitudes, and values. Each is a subculture—a variation of American culture, Southern Piedmont style. —Hylan Lewis, Blackways ofKent (1955) In the late 1940s, with support from the Rosenwald Fund and the University ofNorth Carolina's Institute for Research in Social Science, anthropologist John Gillin directed a series ofsouthern community studies, including a remarkable study ofYork, South Carolina , a small town thirty miles south ofCharlotte. In 1948 and 1949 three graduate students—one black, two white—moved to the town they called "Kent," and each immersed himselfin one ofYork's three subcultures. As a result ofthese labors, we have a composite picture of York at midcentury unequalled for any other southern (probably any other American) town, a pictureparticularly impressive for its attention to the town's subordinated groups: African Americans and white millworkers. Ralph Patrick Jr. lived among the "town" whites of York and wrote his Harvard dissertation about them. Although his projected book, Townways ofKent, was never published—out ofregard for his informants' privacy, he said—the other two students' dissertations became classic ethnographies. Hylan Lewis, then a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, portrayed the town's black community in Blackways ofKent, published by the University ofNorth Carolina Press in 1955. John Kenneth Morland studied York's mill villagers; his Chapel Hill dissertation became Millways ofKent, published by UNC Press in 1958. For Morland this opportunity was "fortuitous." Earlier he had shifted his graduate work from Chinese studies at Yale to sociology because the revolution in China would "end the relationship between Yale and China, at least as we had known it." Encouraged by Howard Odum of the University ofNorth Carolina, who was a visiting professor at Yale, Morland entered UNC. "I later learned that Odum diverted the Alumni Building window-washing fund into financial help for me," he says. After satisfying course requirements for his doctorate, Morland signed on with Gillin, who "advocated anthropological studies ofAmerican society, believing that the same approach could be applied 168Southern Cultures that had been employed by anthropologists in participant-observation studies ofsmall, relatively isolated folk societies." Initially, Morland lived with a retired mill couple in one ofthe mill villages, but midway through his year in York he was joined by his wife, Margaret, and the young couple moved to quarters in town. Morland continued his research on the mill workers, but now with Margaret's help. In February of 1992, the Morlands were interviewed about their experiences in York. The interview took place at their home in Lynchburg, Virginia, where Ken is retired from Randolph-Macon Woman's College. Unless otherwise indicated , the voice is Kenneth Morland's. The photographs were taken during his stay in York and have not been published before. —John Shelton Reed "I Told Them I Would Like to Take Notes" I shall always remember arriving at the York bus station, not knowing anyone and having a sinking feeling about how I might be received by the people in the mill village section. I stayed at a bed-and-breakfast that Patrick had recommended , went to see the family with whom he had stayed, visited the minister of the Presbyterian Church who had been alerted that I was coming and who understood the purpose of anthropological fieldwork. I also introduced myself to the chief of police, a banker who was a close, understanding friend of Patrick's and who became a close friend of mine, and the minister of the Baptist Church in the mill village who had considerable influence among mill workers. One of the critical steps in any participant-observation study is, of course, how you explain yourself to those who are to be your subjects of research. Gillin had driven me to Kannapolis, North Carolina, to meet Charles Cannon, the owner of the largest mill in York. Gillin explained to Cannon what my purpose was and asked him if he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 167-214
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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