In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

200 Alice Buck Norwood Spearman Wright A Civil Rights Activist Marcia G. Synnott • • • Alice Buck Norwood Spearman Wright (1902–89), executive director of the biracial South Carolina Council on Human Relations (scchr) from 1954 to 1967, was one of the few white women in her state deeply committed to advancing civil rights for African Americans. She was a liberal voice within the council, a moderate group that, under her influence, began to work more directly to end segregation. Marion Allen Wright, president of the South Carolina division of the Southern Regional Council (src) after World War II and then src itself in the 1950s, described Spearman as the only member to speak forthrightly, though “soft voiced and emotional,” for integration and against sending black students out of state to segregated regional universities.1 Perpetually networking , she reached out through the scchr to give African Americans “the confidence that they could win.”2 Spearman forged many connections between blacks and whites in the state, as well as aided in bringing together local activists with national leaders. Particularly effective at nurturing relationships with African Americans without personally alienating whites, she was able to mentor college students, communicate the council’s position to politicians, and nudge some businessmen into complying peacefully with the desegregation of their own stores or establishments. Spearman’s progressive beliefs and interpersonal skills evolved as she matured . She had been schooled in the class and gender assumptions of white southern ladies by her mother, a great-granddaughter of one of the state’s largest slave owners. But Spearman’s innate curiosity led her to question the confines Alice Buck Norwood Spearman Wright 201 of her privileged childhood in Marion, South Carolina. She later described her personal evolution: “I might say that my early childhood was so sheltered, that it developed in me, a determination to see what was across the fence. And so I have always had a desire for new experiences. I have also been determined that I was going to know people of all walks of life. I’m happy to say that my father’s attitudes were very, very democratic, and he too felt that way.”3 By becoming “a questioning rebel,” Spearman began to break free of her “cultural conditioning,” a process that accelerated when she participated in the student ywca at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.4 The ywca prepared her for personal and social activism in ways that anticipated the influence that the women’s movement had on young women in the 1960s and 1970s.5 At Converse, Spearman served on the interracial committee of the student ywca and evolved into a liberal Baptist who believed segregation contravened the New Testament. A member of the ywca’s Student-Industrial Commission, whose members were equally represented by Converse students and young women employed in Spartanburg textile mills, Spearman was one of twelve college women in the South selected by the ywca’s national board to participate in “a student-in-industry” summer experiment in Atlanta. The ninety-five-pound, five-foot-five-and-a-half-inch Spearman turned sacks inside out on the eleven-hour day shift at the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. Student government association president her senior year, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in history and literature in 1923.6 In 1926, Spearman headed to New York City to attend the resident ywca National Training School and to earn a master’s degree in religious education at Columbia Teachers College. She then worked for the Germantown, Pennsylvania , ywca.7 Inspired by that experience to broaden her horizons internationally, she traveled around the world from 1930 to 1932. En route, she attended the fifth All-India Woman’s Conference on educational and social reform in Lahore, where she felt “a real awakening” after meeting “women of intelligence & influence from all over India.”8 Returning home to Depression-era South Carolina, she found her father dead and family assets sharply reduced. Through both family prominence and her own ambition, Spearman was appointed the state’s first woman relief director in Marion County. She also helped set up relief for workers who took part in the United Textile Workers of America strike in September 1934. Later she was made the state supervisor of education for federal programs in adult and worker education.9 These work experiences pushed Spearman to become a “dyed-in-the-wool socialist,” and she positioned herself somewhat left of the Alice Buck Norwood Spearman Wright Courtesy of...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.