William Stuart Nelson

Title

William Stuart Nelson

Subject

African Americans--Civil rights
Race relations
Religion
Education

Description

William Stuart Nelson (1895-1977), an African American educator and theologian, was born in Paris, Kentucky. After moving to Paducah, Kentucky and graduating from Lincoln High School, Paducah built and named a park after Nelson, Stuart Nelson Park, in the 1940s. During World War I, Nelson joined the Army and earned the rank of combat officer in the Second Army's 92nd division. In 1920, Nelson graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. with a bachelor of arts degree. In 1924, he graduated from Yale University with a bachelor of divinity degree. Nelson also studied in Paris, France at the Sorbonne and the Protestant Theological Seminary. In 1924, after graduating from Yale, Nelson began teaching philosophy at Howard University and became an assistant to the president. After leaving Howard, he became president of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina and then became president of Dillard University in New Orleans. In 1940, Nelson returned to Howard to serve as dean and became vice president in 1961. While at Howard he started the Journal of Religious Thought and retired in 1968.

Nelson begins the interview by describing a recent trip to Africa and his discussion with an African political leader of Southern Rhodesia, [Sitole], regarding the nonviolence philosophy. Nelson furthers the discussion by providing his opinion on the strategy of nonviolence being used within the civil rights movement. African American history and the African American history movement are also discussed in terms of a social context. Nelson and Warren then revisit the influence of slavery on identity, discussing the white Southerner and his struggle to defend his identity within his culture. Nelson discusses the influence his travels had on his writings and his thesis expressing his opinion that is necessary for African Americans to view their problems in a world context. Nelson restates his interest in the philosophy of nonviolence and describes his participation in the nonviolent March on Washington in 1941. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of the effects of the civil rights movement on the youth who are devoted to it and Nelson's observations on the division in civil rights leadership.

Format

audio

Identifier

2002oh111_rpwcr006

Interviewer

Robert Penn Warren

Interviewee

William Stuart Nelson

OHMS Object Text

5.1 2002oh111_rpwcr006 Interview with William Stuart Nelson, March 3, 1964 2002oh111_rpwcr006 02:05:27 ohrpwcr Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Collection rpwcr001 Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries (Exhibit) African Americans--Civil rights Race relations Religion Education Abraham Lincoln Civil rights movement Non-violence Segregation Religion Martin Luther King, Jr. South Africa William Stuart Nelson Robert Penn Warren 2002oh111_rpwcr006_nelson_acc001.mp3 0 https://oralhistory.uky.edu/spokedbaudio/2002oh111_rpwcr006_nelson_acc001.mp3 Other audio 5 Social movements and travels in Africa New tape, new tape, new tape. Dr. Nelson describes his research travels in various African states, in which he polled leaders and members of various movements, such as Ndabaningi Sithole, about their philosophy on social movements and freedom struggle. Africa ; Central Africa ; East Africa ; Ethiopia ; Howard University ; Ndabaningi Sithole ; South Africa ; Southern Rhodesia ; Union Theological Seminary Black universities and colleges ; Colonies ; Imperialism ; Nonviolence ; Protest movements. ; Research grants ; Social movements ; Universities and colleges 17.863889, 31.029722 17 Location of Harare, capitol of Zimbabwe, which at the time of the interview was called Salisbury and was capital of the former state of Rhodesia. 470 The psyche of violence and nonviolence On the question of violence, um, may I read you a little passage from, um, Dr. Kenneth Clark-- Dr. Nelson comments on the ideas circulating among the African American community regarding violence and nonviolence in demonstrations, as well as why so many people take an interest in Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Kenneth Clark ; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ; Medgar Evers ; Social pathology African American leadership ; African Americans--Conduct of life ; Civil rights demonstrations ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Nonviolence ; Passive resistance. ; Protest movements. 17 1261 North vs. South Dr. Clark also says, or strongly implies, that this movement which has worked in the South, you see, he admits-- A quote from Kenneth Clark on the development of the civil rights movement in the South is interpreted. Nelson then analyzes the movement's Southern origins, and the religious undertones within it. Religion in the South is also compared to religion in the North. Comparisons ; Cultured ; Discrimination by region ; Dr. Kenneth Clark ; Leadership ; Life ; Simplicity ; Sophistication African Americans--Religion. ; African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; United States--Race relations. 17 1759 Segregation and its repercussions Um, I was talking with Ralph Ellison about this point. Nelson analyzes a quote from Ralph Ellison on segregation. Nelson is found to agree with Ellison's ideas. Next, Nelson describes the effects of segregation upon Southern African Americans, and compares this situation to the reality that Northerners face. The notion of the white man's stereotype of black people is also examined. Comparisons ; Consequences ; Forces of oppression ; North ; Ralph Ellison ; Repression ; Resistance ; South ; Stereotypes African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; United States--Race relations. 17 2318 Role of the mother in the South A psychiatrist I have a slight acquaintance with, who is a negro, made the remark to me that the new movement is a shift... The role of the Southern black mother is examined. Nelson articulates that black southern society continues to be matriarchal, and the mother plays a significant part in a child's life. In many cases, the mother acts as a catalyst for the child to fight segregation and repression. Recent instances of this are also mentioned. Fathers ; Matriarchs ; Mothers ; Parents ; Responsibilities ; Roles ; Society ; Strength ; The Sound and the Fury (Book) ; William Faulkner African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Culture ; United States--Race relations. 17 2677 Teaching black history Let me switch the topic a little bit. Nelson responds to a quote by Arnold Rose regarding black history in schools. Nelson lists his two interpretations of black historical consciousness. The way in which African Americans view and teach their history is compared to that of the South, and is found to be very similar in several aspects. Lastly, Nelson also says that many African Americans view segregation as part of their historical and current identities. &quot ; Group consciousness&quot ; ; Arnold Rose ; Community ; Comparisons ; Identities ; Opinions ; Pride ; Society ; Southern United States ; Unification ; Views African Americans--Education. ; African Americans--Race identity. ; African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; History ; United States--Race relations. 17 3360 Dubois' split culture concept / Civil War I suppose you are answering before I ask the question. Nelson talks of W.E.B. Dubois' concept of the split of culture experienced by African Americans. Nelson expresses his desire to find the positive attributes in his past as well, in connection to the split. The importance of group past, and then becoming a part of mankind as a whole is emphasized. Additionally, Frederick Douglass and the Civil War are discussed. &quot ; The split&quot ; ; Frederick Douglass ; Groups ; Mankind ; Past ; Society ; W.E.B. Dubois African Americans--Race identity. ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; Ancestry ; Culture ; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865. ; United States--Race relations. 17 3700 Abraham Lincoln / Future Uh, Dr. Nelson, uh, why was the Lincoln, uh, Monument chosen as the spot for the March on Washington to reach its climax? Nelson explains why Lincoln is an important figure for African Americans and everyone as a whole. Lincoln and Indians' reverence for him (only second to Gandhi, according to Nelson) is explored. Lincoln's apparent racism is also deliberated upon. Nelson highlights the need to judge historical figures on the circumstances of the time period they lived in, not on today's modern standards. Lastly, Nelson speculates upon the future and the effects the civil rights movement will have had on society 100 years from now (from 1964). Abraham Lincoln ; Civil rights movement ; Context ; Emancipation Proclamation ; Ethics ; Faults ; Future ; Heroes ; History ; Mahatma Gandhi ; Mohandas Gandhi ; Moral climate ; Morals ; People ; Perspectives ; Slavery ; Society African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 --Views on race relations ; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Views on slavery ; United States--Race relations. 17 4250 Reconstruction revisited / Southern mobs Let me ask a question about the Reconstruction. Nelson considers Gunnar Maynard's approach to revising the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. Nelson expresses the desire to hear opinions of economists and other respected figures on this issue (both past and present) before he can pass any accurate judgement on the actual program of Reconstruction. Lincoln's potential role in Reconstruction is also mentioned. Additionally, a quote from James Baldwin is read concerning the Southern mob and its effect on African Americans and movements of both violence and non-violence. Abraham Lincoln ; Economists ; Gunnar Maynard ; James Baldwin ; Non-punitive ; Oppression ; People ; Politics ; Reconstruction ; Southern mobs African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; History ; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865. ; United States--Race relations. 17 4858 Life Dr. Nelson, could you say something about the growth of your awareness... Nelson gives an outline of his life, and how his attitudes on segregation and racism developed throughout the years. The interviewee grew up in Kentucky, then served in World War I, where he became interested in ministerial life. Nelson's educational path to a PhD in theology is given as well. Nelson discusses his time working at universities in the South, and how his perception of segregation changed during this period. The interviewee's time in India, and recent work as the Dean of Howard University is also highlighted. Berlin (Germany) ; Churches ; Dillard University ; Doctors ; Howard University ; India ; Life ; Mahatma Gandhi ; Minstrel shows ; Mohandas Gandhi ; New Orleans (La.) ; Paducah (Ky.) ; Paris (France) ; Publications ; Shaw University ; Thesis ; U.S. Army ; World War I ; Yale Divinity School African American college students. ; African Americans--Education. ; African Americans--Religion. ; African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Racism ; Theology ; United States--Race relations. 17 6116 Relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. / Civil rights movements past and present You've been associated with Dr. King... Nelson briefly recounts his relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., and the two are found to have worked on several projects for the movement over the years. A comparison between the civil rights movements of the 1940s and 1960s is given. The origins of the 1960s movement are then explored. Collaborations ; Comparisons ; Documents ; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ; James Farmer ; Mahatma Gandhi ; Mohandas Gandhi ; Movements ; Similarities ; Washington (D.C.) African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Nonviolence ; Passive resistance. ; Protest movements. ; Racism ; United States--Race relations. 17 6522 Religion This is not getting so far afield as it may seem at first glance. Nelson provides his definition of religion to Warren. Commitment to religion and its principles are emphasized. Nelson also briefly gives his opinion on a Brooklyn minister's decision to lift a ban on the controversial book &quot ; Fanny Hill&quot ; within his congregation. Beliefs ; British literature ; Brooklyn (N.Y.) ; Commitment ; Doctrines ; Fanny Hill (Book) ; Judgement ; Supreme power ; The New York Times ; Truth African Americans--Religion. ; Churches ; Religion 17 7018 Future of youth in the movement / Leadership Change of subject again. Nelson speculates upon the future of the youth in the movement once it ends. Their potential fate is compared to the disillusionment of youth who participated in social justice movements of the 1930s once they ended. Nelson compares the dynamics between the two movements as well. Next, Nelson talks of the rift between civil rights leaders, and declares that relations seem to be improving. Nelson also weighs in on the public school boycott occurring in New York City schools. Achievements ; Boycott ; Commitment ; Comparisons ; Divisions ; Future ; Goals ; Improvements ; Judgement ; Leaders ; New York City (N.Y.) ; Publicity ; Risks African American leadership ; African Americans--Education. ; African Americans--Segregation ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans--Southern States. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Civil rights workers ; Discrimination in education. ; Segregation in education. ; Social justice ; United States--Race relations. 17 interview William Stuart Nelson (1895-1977), an African American educator and theologian, was born in Paris, Kentucky. After moving to Paducah, Kentucky and graduating from Lincoln High School, Paducah built and named a park after Nelson, Stuart Nelson Park, in the 1940s. During World War I, Nelson joined the Army and earned the rank of combat officer in the Second Army's 92nd division. In 1920, Nelson graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. with a bachelor of arts degree. In 1924, he graduated from Yale University with a bachelor of divinity degree. Nelson also studied in Paris, France at the Sorbonne and the Protestant Theological Seminary. In 1924, after graduating from Yale, Nelson began teaching philosophy at Howard University and became an assistant to the president. After leaving Howard, he became president of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina and then became president of Dillard University in New Orleans. In 1940, Nelson returned to Howard to serve as dean and became vice president in 1961. While at Howard he started the Journal of Religious Thought and retired in 1968. Nelson begins the interview by describing a recent trip to Africa and his discussion with an African political leader of Southern Rhodesia, [Sitole], regarding the nonviolence philosophy. Nelson furthers the discussion by providing his opinion on the strategy of nonviolence being used within the civil rights movement. African American history and the African American history movement are also discussed in terms of a social context. Nelson and Warren then revisit the influence of slavery on identity, discussing the white Southerner and his struggle to defend his identity within his culture. Nelson discusses the influence his travels had on his writings and his thesis expressing his opinion that is necessary for African Americans to view their problems in a world context. Nelson restates his interest in the philosophy of nonviolence and describes his participation in the nonviolent March on Washington in 1941. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of the effects of the civil rights movement on the youth who are devoted to it and Nelson's observations on the division in civil rights leadership. No transcript. All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries. 0 http://www.nunncenter.net/ohms/render.php?cachefile=2002oh111_rpwcr006_nelson_ohm.xml 2002oh111_rpwcr006_nelson_ohm.xml https://oralhistory.uky.edu/catalog/xt7pvm42vb4w

Interview Keyword

Abraham Lincoln
Civil rights movement
Non-violence
Segregation
Religion
Martin Luther King, Jr.
South
Africa

Sort Priority

0017

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Files

nelson_sm.jpg


Citation

“William Stuart Nelson,” The Robert Penn Warren Oral History Archive, accessed August 14, 2020, https://www.nunncenter.net/robertpennwarren/items/show/102.