Esau Jenkins

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Esau Jenkins (July 3, 1910 - October 1972) was the founder/overseer of Haut Gap Middle School in Charleston County School District. This school once was a high school because back then Jim Crow laws were prevalent and that school was intended for African Americans in Johns Island, South Carolina. Since then the population increased 500%. Jenkins was a prominent leader of the civil rights movement in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. More information about him is available in the autobiography of his longtime co-worker, Septima Poinsette Clark, and in Guy and Candie Carawan's book Ain't You Got a Right to the Tree of Life.'

In 1954, Clark and Jenkins founded the South's first Citizenship School. The purpose was to teach illiterate blacks to read so that they could pass a required literacy test to vote. This first class was taught by Bernice Robinson, a beautician and Clark's cousin. Reading and voting were the springboards for blacks to get on with a larger social movement. It naturally followed that demonstrations about voting rights occurred. The Citizenship schools, eventually managed by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference "played a critical role in building the base for the Civil Rights Movement",[1] and by 1967 Jenkins was a member of the SCLC's board of directors.[2] He also founded The Progressive Club.[3] The building housing The Progressive Club and Citizenship School at Johns Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.[4]

More can be read about Citizenship Schools in Myles Horton's autobiography, The Long Haul.


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