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Planning a Movement

In the face of segregation, African Americans created strong community institutions that became vital for supporting one another and planning resistance to Jim Crow laws. Black churches, schools, and civic groups provided financial, spiritual, and social support for individuals and their communities. 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, led the way in promoting civil rights and organizing campaigns to fight against lynching and other injustices. In 1917, Columbia and Charleston established South Carolina’s first NAACP branches. Organizations like the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) focused on young people, training them in civil rights advocacy and activism. 

These community groups and organizations set the stage for the development of the broader Civil Rights Movement.

NAACP

This hymn, written in 1900, became the anthem of the NAACP and by extension, an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. It is known today as the “Black National Anthem.”
Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library
Title page of sheet music for the hymn,

1900 James Weldon Johnson wrote the hymn Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing in 1900. It became the anthem of the NAACP after it was founded in 1909. As a result, it was seen as an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library

Four well-dressed men stand in a dirt parking lot looking at the camera.

1948 In post-World War II South Carolina, John H. McCray, Peter Ingram, J.C. Artemus, and James M. Hinton were prominent civil rights leaders. From left to right: John H. McCray, Peter Ingram, J. C. Artemus, and James M. Hinton.
Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

Program for an NAACP mass meeting at Mt. Olive Baptist Church on October 24, 1948.

October 24, 1948 Leaders and activists used flyers to spread the word about meetings and organize civil rights activities. They often urged people to attend mass meetings, usually held in churches.
Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

Men, women, and children with a sign,

November 30, 1952 Members of the Ridgeland, S.C., branch of the NAACP in coastal Jasper and Beaufort Counties meet with John Bolt Culbertson, an influential White attorney who actively supported the NAACP and civil rights causes.
Courtesy of South Carolina Political Collections

A well-dressed, interracial group of four men and one woman stand on a stage.

1953 Judge Hubert Delany, from New York, was keynote speaker at the 1953 Annual Conference of the NAACP in Charleston.
(From left to right: John Bolt Culbertson, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Hubert Delany, James Hinton, and John H. McCray)
Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

“My first name is fight, my middle name is fight, and my last name is fight.”

Modjeska Monteith Simkins

  • In 1946, Columbia, South Carolina hosted the annual meeting of SNYC. Activist and S.C. NAACP Secretary Modjeska Simkins was one of the key organizers. Courtesy of South Carolina Political Collections
    Poster for SNYC Convention in Columbia, SC in October 1946.
  • The SNYC Conference featured renowned speakers, including W.E.B. DuBois. Students also attended sessions on history and politics and learned practical skills such as public speaking and writing press releases. Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library
    A full auditorium at the SNYC's 2nd Convention of the Southern Youth Legislature.
Woman stands by a seated man in army uniform and dark glasses.

1946

World War II veteran Sgt. Isaac Woodard was dragged from a bus, brutally beaten, and blinded by White police officers in Batesburg. The attack drew national attention to White violence against African Americans. The case is also credited with pushing President Harry Truman to desegregate the armed forces in 1948.

Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library

“We will run on to see what the end will be.”

Isaiah DeQuincey Newman

Profiles in Activism: Planning a Movement

Countless people laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. Learn more about some of their stories!
A sepia-toned portrait of a Black man with small round glasses wearing a suit and tie

N. J. Frederick

Teacher, lawyer and civil rights activist

N. J. Frederick

Teacher, lawyer and civil rights activist

Nathaniel J. Frederick (1877-1938), born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, was a journalist, attorney, and educator. Frederick was a founding member of the Columbia branch of the NAACP in 1917.

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Levi Byrd

Plumber and NAACP leader

Levi Byrd

Plumber and NAACP leader

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Ethel Williams Wilson

Missionary leader, professor and civil rights activist

Ethel Williams Wilson

Missionary leader, professor and civil rights activist

Ethel Williams Wilson (1914-1987), from Columbia, S.C., a director of missions and professor of history at Benedict College, supported the Civil Rights Movement, including student activism.

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Matthew Perry

Judge, lawyer and civil rights activist

Matthew Perry

Judge, lawyer and civil rights activist

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Modjeska Simkins

Civil rights activist and public health advocate

Modjeska Simkins

Civil rights activist and public health advocate

“My first name is fight, my middle name is fight, and my last name is fight.”

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