Oral Histories

Interview of Thomas Kilgore Jr.

Civil rights activist and senior pastor of the Second Baptist Church, the oldest black Baptist church in Los Angeles.
Black Leadership in Los Angeles: Thomas Kilgore, Jr.
Black Leadership in Los Angeles
African American History
Biographical Note:
Civil rights activist and senior pastor of the Second Baptist Church, the oldest black Baptist church in Los Angeles.
Kelley, Robin D. G.
Kilgore, Thomas Jr.
Persons Present:
Kilgore and Kelley.
Place Conducted:
Kilgore's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Robin D.G. Kelley, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., History, California State University, Long Beach; M.A., History of Africa, UCLA; Ph.D. candidate, History, UCLA. Member of the editorial board of Ufahamu.Kelley prepared for the interview by reviewing the annual reports of Second Baptist Church from 1964-84, several articles in the Los Angeles press related to Dr. Kilgore's activities, and biographical material prepared by Dr. Kilgore. He also studied relevant aspects of North Carolina history, the history of Morehouse College, black politics in the 1930s and 1940s, Harlem history, the civil rights movement, and aspects of black theology.
Processing of Interview:
Chana Kai Lee, assistant editor, edited the interview. She checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.In July, 1987, the edited transcript was sent to Kilgore for review. He verified proper names and made numerous corrections and additions and returned the manuscript later that year.Vimala Jayanti, editor, prepared the table of contents and biographical summary. The interviewer prepared the interview history. Teresa Barnett, editor, prepared the index.
7 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
Interviews in this series were made possible by support from the UCLA Center for African American Studies, Institute of American Cultures. This is the first of several Oral History Program series focusing on social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of African American citizens in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Family history -- Kilgore's parents and siblings - Life in Woodruff, South Carolina -- Conversion experience -- Move to Brevard, North Carolina -- Goes to Stephens-Lee High School in Asheville, North Carolina -- Licensed as a minister -- Schooling available to blacks in Brevard -- Applies to colleges -- Effect of Depression in Brevard.
Mother, Eugenia Langston Kilgore, does not work outside of her home -- Racial relations in Woodruff -- Racial composition of Brevard and Asheville -- Segregation in towns greater than in rural areas -- An incident of racial violence - Wealthy whites' treatment of blacks -- Kilgore enters Morehouse College -- Morehouse's impact on his life -- Supporting himself through college - Extracurricular activities -- Student opposition to segregation -- Kilgore's student acquaintances who later became civil rights activists.
Involvement in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen - Morehouse teaches a religion of social involvement -- Kilgore marries -- Teaches in country schools in North Carolina and works as pastor in Asheville and Winston-Salem -- Builds new church building in Winston-Salem -- Assists with black voter registration -- Confronts white preachers with their own racism -- Helps organize strike in Reynolds Tobacco Company.
Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) activities in the South -- Organizing of the tobacco industry in Winston-Salem -- Kilgore attends Howard University Divinity School - Becomes executive secretary of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention -- The state convention's program -- The convention's organization -- Number and size of churches in North Carolina at the time -- Mentors at Howard University -- Fellow students at Howard University -- Kilgore's increasing commitment to a religion of social involvement -- His thesis on the Montgomery protest movement -- Personal experiences with segregation - Move to New York to pastor Friendship Baptist Church -- Church work in Harlem -- Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in New York in the forties and fifties -- Comparison of church congregations in the North and South -- Kilgore's family life in New York -- Attends Union Theological Seminary - Mentors at Union Theological Seminary - Relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the King family -- More on mentors at Union Theological Seminary -- Kilgore's view of the Bible -- Religious language in the pulpit and the seminary -- Fellow students at Union Theological Seminary -- More on thesis on Montgomery protest movement -- Conducts Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom - The Prayer Pilgrimage in comparison to other marches on Washington.
Role in the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom -- Labor and religious groups prove natural allies of the civil rights movement -- Kilgore's civil rights work in New York City -- 1963 March on Washington - Philosophy of nonviolence -- Fear of communists in the civil rights movement -- More on the March on Washington -- Reasons for coming to Los Angeles's Second Baptist Church -- Black leadership in Los Angeles -- Ethnic composition of the area around Second Baptist -- The Selma March --Kilgore and his family refuse to leave a segregated eating establishment -- Opposition to Kilgore's efforts to organize branches of the NAACP in the South.
Jack O'Dell leaves Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) because of his early communist connections -- The Poor People's Campaign - SCLC's role in Los Angeles -- Impact of King's assassination on Los Angeles -- Effect of King's assassination on Kilgore personally -- Kilgore becomes president of the American Baptist Convention -- Black caucus in the convention -- Black religious organizations -- James Forman's reparations proposal -- Establishment of the Fund of Renewal -- James H. Cone's theology of black power.
Aftermath of the Watts riots -- Kilgore's relationship with black militants -- Black militants use Second Baptist Church as forum - Second Baptist Church gains reputation of being radical -- Clergy involved with Black Power movement -- Church projects in the local community - Church involvement in international missions - Work as president of the American Baptist Convention.
Traveling for the American Baptist Convention - Prominent members of American Baptist black caucus -- Kilgore's community involvement in the early 1970s -- Involvement with University of Southern California (USC) -- The Ebonic Support Group.
Second Baptist Church's ninetieth anniversary in 1975 -- Becomes involved in Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) -- Fall Forums at Second Baptist Church -- Second Baptist hosts Progressive Baptist National Convention -- Founding of the Gathering -- The Gathering pushes for restrictions on police use of handguns -- Other activities of the Gathering and its eventual decline -- Decline of the civil rights movement in the seventies - Change in ethnic composition of neighborhood around Second Baptist Church -- Future of the black colleges -- Work in the Congress of National Black Churches.
The Black Agenda participants and accomplishments -- Retirement from Second Baptist Church - Works on "Amen" television program -- Philosophy of life.