time period

Jim Crow

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, South Carolina enforced the second-class citizenship of African Americans through segregation, residential, political, and social isolation – a rigid legal system known as Jim Crow laws.

The laws forced African Americans to attend separate schools, use separate water fountains, and separate bathrooms. A “poll tax” prevented people from voting, while literacy tests and the grandfather clause further prevented African Americans from voting. In Charleston, Jim Crow laws prevented African Americans from sitting along the Battery. In essence, the laws controlled and confined every part of African American life – and enforced white supremacy.

Though the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 theoretically ended Jim Crow, in 1965 ninety-five percent of South Carolina African American children still attended segregated schools. On September 3, 1963 in Charleston, in a landmark case, a federal judge cleared the way for then 15-year-old Millicent Brown and 10 other African American students (her fellow plaintiffs) to be admitted to a previously exclusively white institution: Rivers High School. Widespread desegregation of South Carolina public schools didn’t occur until the early 1970s.

1879
In support of the Liberia Emigration Movement (1877-1878), the Rev. Richard H. Cain, a local and national AME leader and politician, sponsors a bill to pay passage for those who desire to return to the African continent. As a result, the ship, Azur, leaves from Charleston with 206 Black emigrants en route to Liberia, West Africa; indicative of the desire for a free homeland and doubts that the U.S. could ever be that for people of African descent.
1885
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen No.1, oldest Black labor union in continuous operation in South Carolina founded.
1891
Over the course of decades, Jenkins Orphanage Band builds an international reputation for musical excellence and its ability to raise funds for economic and social well being of impoverished children. The founder, Reverend Daniel Jenkins, also opened the band to community youth.
1897
McClennan-Banks Hospital and Training School for Nurses opens as Charleston’s first and only facility to grant privileges to Black medical and nursing professionals. The Cannon Street and later Courtenay Drive locations served the community until 1978.
1917
The Charleston Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.
1919
On May 10, 1919 a group of white sailors stormed King Street attacking black citizens while looking for a black man who allegedly had been given $20 to buy liquor for them and had not returned. Many black men quickly joined the fight against the sailors. The Marines were called in by Mayor Hyde to detain the sailors and help local police restore order. Two black men were murdered during the attacks. Afterwards, compensation was made to blacks who lost property, the murderers were arrested, and a biracial committee was established to prevent future violence.
1945
Charleston’s Cigar Factory Workers Strike. Nearly 1,000 workers, the majority of whom were Black women, go on strike to demand higher wages, better working conditions, and non-discriminatory practices.

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