Kelly Miller Smith


Part 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 2


The first audio tape begins with Warren announcing the end of another interview (with students of Jackson State College); then he announces Smith. The first tape ends with about 50 seconds of silence. The second tape overlaps slightly with the third.

Photo:  Vanderbilt University Special Collections.

Audio courtesy of the University of Kentucky.

Kelly Miller Smith

Feb. 13 [1964]
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Kelly Miller Smith
Kelly Miller Smith Bio

Kelly Miller Smith (1920-1984) was a clergyman and civil rights activist in Nashville. He earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Morehouse College and a Master of Divinity degree from Howard University. He came to Nashville's First Colored Baptist Church in 1951, and served as the president of the Nashville chapter of the NAACP. In 1955, he and twelve other African American parents filed a federal lawsuit against segregation in the Nashville public schools. In 1958, he founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council. He played an important role in the Nashville sit-in movement in the early 1960s. He served as Assistant Dean of Vanderbilt University's Divinity School from 1969 until his death.  In 1994, the Jefferson Street bridge in Nashville, Tennessee, was renamed and dedicated to honor the Rev. Kelly Miller Smith. 


Smith provides a brief personal history, then he describes nonviolence training and sit-ins in Nashville. He explains how students came to be a part of this movement, as well as Vanderbilt Divinity School student James Lawson's central role. He tells about the boycotts against downtown stores that came in the wake of the sit-ins. He describes at length the negotiations that finally brought change, noting that southern-bred store and theater owners were often easier to convince than northerners. He describes violence against the demonstrators and the police's role in it. In response to a question by Warren about the dilemma of maintaining black identity on one hand and joining American culture on the other, he advocates being a part of America, not a nation within a nation. He disagrees with Kenneth Clark's charge that the doctrine of nonviolence is psychologically intolerable to the African American. He discusses issues of the participation of northern whites in civil rights work in the South. He talks about the future of black colleges in the face of integration. He feels the church has not taken as large a role in the civil rights movement as it should. He gives his ideas on why so many civil rights leaders came from the South, referring to a "false concept" northerners have of progress in race relations in that section.


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