Fellowship Projects and Purpose

News coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s focused on violent confrontations, organized protests and points of conflict. These events often generated powerful images that captured national attention and continue to inform our collective understanding of the civil rights struggle. While these accounts remain vital to this chapter in American history, the mobilization of women throughout Southern communities has been critically underrepresented in the civil rights story. As confrontations and protests were underway on the national stage, important action at the local levels of society was advancing behind the scenes of the larger history still developing. On the local front in Denton, Texas, a group of black and white women joined forces to dissolve the barriers built by segregation and prejudice that had divided their communities. An idea to improve race relations through cooperation and cross-community interaction led to the formation of the Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship. Throughout the 1960s the group worked to improve living conditions in Southeast Denton, organize job-seeking programs, and embrace a non-confrontational approach to avoid conflicts similar to those reported on the national level.

Timing played a critical role in shaping the projects and purposes of the DWIF. In 1964, the group’s founding year, Denton began the process of school integration, the Civil Rights Act finally struck down Jim Crow in public accommodations, and the U.S. was in the midst of a presidential election. As mothers, the women of the DWIF were especially motivated to facilitate desegregation of Denton’s public schools. Their concerns prompted them to establish programs for tutoring and transportation, and their efforts inspired other local women to join their cause. “The commitment of the white Fellowship members to the tutoring and transportation programs,” writes Richard Byrd, “helped dissolve the mistrust and suspicion Denton black women had for the motives of the white women in starting the group.” As their numbers grew, so did the scope of their projects. The group mobilized to encourage voter registration in Southeast Denton through a door-to-door initiative aimed to increase participation in the political process. The DWIF also organized community projects to address conditions in Southeast Denton, and a street paving campaign led by member Trudy Foster was fundamental to the improvement of residential standards. The group, under Foster’s leadership, gathered research on absentee landlords and publicly listed the names of property owners. By 1970 the campaign dramatically enhanced living conditions in the area by paving the streets and motivating landlords to make the necessary repairs to rental properties.

In this series of excerpts, collected from interviews conducted in 2017, members of the DWIF discuss the group’s various projects and goals. Their stories have been recorded to preserve an important piece of local history and to introduce a lesser known, but equally powerful aspect of the civil rights movement. 

Oral History Interview with Betty Kimble (2017; 2 of 13)

Betty Kimble describes the formation of the Denton Women's Interracial Fellowship.

Excerpt from Oral Interview with Euline Brock (2017: 7 of 7)

Euline Brock talks about the goals of the Denton Women's Interracial Fellowship and reflects on the civil rights movement.

Oral History Interview with Ruby Cole and Alma Clark (2017: 4 of 7)

Alma Clark explains the origins of the Denton Women's Interracial Fellowship.

Oral History Interview with Billie Mohair (2017; 2 of 5)

Billie Mohair talks about building trust between the black and white communities in Denton.

Oral History Interview with Catherine Bell (2017; 5 of - )

Catherine Bell discusses family support and cross-community interaction in the Denton Women's Interracial Fellowship.

Oral History Interview with Dorothy Adkins (2017, 11 of 25)

Dorothy Adkins describes the scope of community activism in the DWIF.

Oral History Interview with Carol Riddlesperger (2017; 4 of 8)

Carol Riddlesperger speaks about the street paving campaign in Southeast Denton and the determination of DWIF member, Trudy Foster.

Oral History Interview with Ann Barnett (2017; 16 of 17)

Ann Barnett talks about the DWIF style show at the home of UNT President.

Oral History Interview with Catherine Bell (2017; 8 of 11)

Catherine Bell speaks about DWIF jobs programs and changes in Denton during desegregation.
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