Esau Jenkins and the Progressive Club’s Work Honored with a Historical Marker

In 1948, Esau Jenkins founded the Progressive Club to encourage political education and voting registration as a means of uplifting the Charleston African-American community. Because of low funds, at first Jenkins had to host citizenship classes in his VW bus, driving people to and from their places of work in Charleston. Soon, however, Jenkins’s educational movement picked up speed and garnered an increasing amount of support. In 1957, Jenkins–along with Septima Clark and Bernice Robin–founded the first Citizenship School as a means of accomplishing the goals of the Progressive Club. Incredibly influential (similar schools developed throughout the southeast using the Citizenship School as their model), the school continued to grow and help its students develop the educational and political skill-sets to effect change through voting and political activism.

Courtesy of the Avery Research Center

On September 8, 2013, the Preservation Society of Charleston unveiled a historic marker on Johns Island honoring the work Esau Jenkins and the Progressive Club did for the Civil Rights movement. Bill Saunders, a Civil Rights activist who worked with Jenkins, spoke at the event.

Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation attended the event as well and has documented the unveiling on the Gullah/Geechee blog which can be found here). The Gullah/Geechee Nation is a “nation within a nation” representing the rights of Gullah people and preserving and promoting the unique Gullah culture here in the Lowcountry.  The Nation corresponds with the federally declared Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and extends more or less from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. Queen Quet’s report and the video documenting the unveiling of the marker can be found below.


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