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Title: Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Simkins, Modjeska, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 436 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-03-14, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0056-2)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0056-2)
Author: Modjeska Simkins
Description: 632 Mb
Description: 138 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 28, 1976, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976.
Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Simkins, Modjeska, interviewee


Interview Participants

    MODJESKA SIMKINS, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer
    BOB HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
The first thing I wanted to ask you is just a little bit more about your mother and father. Your mother, you said, was a schoolteacher?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, she taught before I was born.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was her name, first of all?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Rachel Hull.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Hull?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
H-u-l-l, Hull: Rachel Evelyn Hull.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And where was she educated?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Here in Columbia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What school?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Howard High School. See, at that time you could finish high school anywhere in the state and go in as a teacher.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And where had she been teaching before she married your father?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
She taught at a school called Free Hope, which is still standing; the little building is still standing. And then she taught in Jenkinsville. Free Hope is in Richland County, and the other school where she taught is in Jenkinsville, South Carolina. It's in a large Negro settlement where from freedom, from the Emancipation, the people owned their own property, and still do. One of the largest families anywhere in the nation is in that area, called the Martin family. They had their family reunion here last year, and I guess there must have been, oh I don't know, sixteen hundred of them. [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did she grow up?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
My mother was born and reared in Columbia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right in Columbia?

Page 2
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Her homestead was about, oh, five blocks from here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did her parents do?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, her mother was simply a housewife. She never worked out, as we say. Her father worked for (her father's name was George Hull) the old Railway Express Company, taking care of the horses. And my mother said that he had a remedy, or a cure rather, for lockjaw which was known to him. He must have learned it from some of his masters or something during slavery, but he never gave the secret to the children. But of course horses were very important in those days, because they pulled the ambulances and the carriages and the hacks for family transportation as well as public transportation. So they had all these horses to carry the express wagons. And he took care of them and of horses belonging in the town; if there were a case of lockjaw or if a horse stepped on a nail he knew the cure. They had one son, but somehow or other… I gathered this from their talking, that the son was … well, he was the youngest child, the only boy, I'll say. It seems like the mother had a number of children, but only four came to maturity. And this boy, being the only son they pampered him a lot. And he never cared much about being around his father, and I guess his father just thought that maybe after all he wouldn't guard the secret. And maybe he died before he gave him the secret. But they've never known what he did to cure lockjaw.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Hmm. What was your grandmother's name, your mother's mother's name?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know. I never knew her name—at least, if I did I don't remember it. I heard only back to my mother's mother. Now my mother's mother's name was Sarah; and she was a slave. She came from

Page 3
Sumter County in this state. And I think I related in there about her leaving Sumter; I believe I did, I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I think you did.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well anyway, she belonged to a family of Seals, S-e-a-l-s, that owned property in Sumter County. And my mother's mother was in some way or some degree of Turkish ancestry. There was and still is a settlement of Turks in Sumter County, in one section of Sumter County; they're still there. Some years back they wouldn't permit them to go into the white schools, and they would not attend the Negro schools. They tried to force them into the Negro schools; they wouldn't. Well, somehow or other my mother's mother branched off from those Turks. Her mother, she was a house slave and her mother was a quarter slave (that is, lived in the quarters, with what they might call the servant slaves). My mother's mother was very fair and I would judge (although I never saw a picture of her mother, which would be my great-grand-mother) that she was dark skinned. And on one occasion, I understood from my mother that her mother was very devoted to her mother, and after dark she would slip to the quarters to see her mother. There were some rules on some plantations that the house slaves should not associate with the slaves in the quarters. And her mistress found that she had slipped out of the house at night and had gone to the quarters to see her mother, and she had her thrashed or whipped the next morning. Had her whipped, and I understand she was undressed in the presence of some of the people on the plantation, like overseers and like that. And she was so indignified that she decided that she was going to run away from that area of Sumter County and come to Columbia, where her grandmother was. Her grandmother was in slavery (that'd be my great-great-grandmother), my great-great-grandmother on my mother's side

Page 4
was in slavery in Columbia. And she had heard that she was here, and she was going to run away from the slave plantation to get to her grandmother. And on the way into Columbia, my mother said, she saw people on the highway and she ran into the woods to hide. And whoever saw her called her and asked her why was she running and where she was going. And they were union soldiers. And they told her that she wouldn't have to hide, and that she could walk the highway like anybody else did because she was now free. So I conclude that the slaves had been freed already, but the masters of this plantation hadn't told them. I heard my mother say many times that her mother said they told her, "Get right in this road and stay in the highway, and go on to Columbia, because you are free as we are." Then I heard my mother tell how as she was a child, a young girl, that the old slave mistress who had then become poverty-stricken, would come to their home (which was right up here across the street from our governor's mansion). And she said that she had seen her mother give her food many a day when she'd come to their home. And then she'd say to her, "Sarah, I never thought I'd come to this, that you would be able to give me food and be kind to me no matter what I've done." I've heard my mother tell that many a time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did Sarah feel that her mistress had been kinder to her than her master had been? Or why did she do this; why did she help her mistress? Why did she help her in that way?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh no, no; I never heard her say that she saw the master again. Evidently the old man died, and this old lady found her way to Columbia. And then she found where my grandmother was, and she'd come to see her. And evidently she was hungry and poverty-stricken.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm wondering if she saw any difference between her master and her

Page 5
mistress in the way they treated the slaves?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I never heard that; I never heard that. But the master did the whipping, did the thrashing. I never got any impression that the master was any more sympathetic or kindly. But I did get the impression that old lady Seals was an old heifer, and that she just told him he had to whip her; and he did. And then she made up her mind she wasn't going to take another whipping, she was going to run away to Columbia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember any other stories that your mother told about her mother?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I don't remember any others. See, my mother's father's people came from Athens, Georgia. How they met up here together I don't know. You know, that's a funny thing about fate: people coming to the end of the world and meeting, and nobody knows why they did. But anyway, he was from Athens. And I've heard her tell how my father's mother was sold away from him in slavery. He was just a lad, and they sold her away. And she had—you know, the old ladies or the women in those days wore kerchiefs they tied their heads in, and sometimes they'd have one around their neck like a little cape. So we had for years (I don't know what became of it) in my mother's effects—that is, in our homestead—but I know that she kept for years this kerchief. When she was sold away from him and he was pleading and holding to her, she pulled off this kerchief and gave it to him as a memento. And then we had for the longest a pair of his little trousers that he was wearing around that time. Whatever slave caretaker, or whoever it was that took care of him, I mean, they had those: I do know that. Eventually he found his mother after freedom was declared, because she came to Columbia. And as I remember it she died here.

Page 6
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know how he found her?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I don't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know the name of the people who owned him?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I don't. I do know that evidently when he got back to … I mean, when freedom was declared no matter where she was sold to she perhaps would come back to Athens. And when she came back to Athens perhaps he was still a lad just freed. I don't mean to say that she found him in Columbia. They evidently found each other after the Emancipation but before he came to Columbia; then she later came to Columbia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he remember anything about his father?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, never heard about him. They had a cousin by the name of Thena. I heard my mother speak often of Cousin Finia, and I've seen her picture: a very, very beautiful woman that was a very fine seamstress during slavery and even after freedom was declared. On the plantation where she lived she did all the beautiful sewing and embroidery work and all for them. But what her last name was I don't remember. I have known, but I don't remember.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your father have brothers and sisters?1
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
My father?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
My father had a brother by the name of Frank, and a sister by the name of Bessie. [omission]
I do know that working along with him (I can't remember now just the position, but this man had something to do with building) was a Scotchman. He came from Paisley, Scotland, and he and my father were very good friends. And they worked together. He was in some kind of supervisory capacity, I

Page 7
guess maybe kind of like a general contractor on those buildings. But I heard him speak of him often. And for years when I was a kid coming up, after he had gone back to Paisley he would write; he would send us cards and letters. He was very devoted to my father. His name was Gabriel (the name comes to me now) McClay. So we always welcomed those cards from Gabriel with, you know, the stamps that weren't like our stamps and the buildings way over, way over across the world, because it's hard for a child now to imagine how wonderful it was to hear that somebody lived across the waters or around the world, or that somebody went around the world. Like my mother used to tell us about Madame Patty, who was a great singer. And then there was a very great singer, a black singer that called herself Black Patty. And I remember when my mother told me that Black Patty had gone all the way around the world; I just thought … my mind went wild. I just couldn't imagine how anybody could go that far, you know. It's hard for a child to imagine what wonder it was to hear that … you know, about the trips people made and, you know, these long sea-going voyages and things like that. Of course a number of them were before my childhood, but we heard about them. My mother read to us a lot, and we had to read a lot too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things did your mother read to you?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, she read current events and portions of the Bible, and children's literature. Of course we were provided by my… See, when my mother married she didn't teach anymore until her children were up a size; then she went back to teaching. But during that time I had an aunt who was teaching, another that taught a while (maybe until about the time she married.) She married just before my mother; she was the oldest child. And she was married to a physician, one of the first black physicians

Page 8
that came into South Carolina. She sent us books. He was practicing down in Georgetown (that's down on the coast). She sent us books. And this other aunt, my mother's younger sister, would send us books for Christmas—like, you know, children's stories of the Bible or fairy tales. They don't have fairy tales now like they used to, and I know some of the great wonder has gone out of children's lives, you know. I just reveled. And I read, you know, Hans Christen Anderson fairy tales, "The Little Match Girl" and things like that. The children nowadays don't get to read these things. Ordinarily, I think, they don't; they have another kind of literature. But still, they were sources of great wonder, especially for children who had at that time so little communication with the outside world—not with TV and radio as we have now, when you see around the world in just the twinkling of an eye. So she read to us.
She made particular effort to acquaint us with things as they were, no matter how cruel or atrocious they might be. She read just about all the lynchings, and how these people were mutilated or treated during lynchings. In fact, we were in Huntsville, Alabama when they had a lynching there, and my father told us how one of the lynchers came in and showed him the finger of this Negro. My father was a fearless man. He came in and showed it to my father, as though to intimidate him, I guess.
My father was noted for the backing of chimneys. You remember seeing that, perhaps, but there's a certain way if you have a fireplace that you lay the bricks in the chimney that makes sure that you're going to have a draft instead of smoke blowing out. And he was noted for that. Even in his late years here in Columbia it was well known that he just had a kind of special skill in backing chimneys. And so when they built these factories they'd have rows and rows of factory houses all looking just alike. You've

Page 9
seen some of them; they've passed out of existence right now. But then he would have to go and back the chimneys in every one of those factory houses. And he was backing a chimney one Saturday afternoon when this fellow came in and showed him this finger that was cut off this Negro. I guess they wanted to intimidate him as a Negro, you know, knowing that he was well thought of, I guess, by the construction company. But my father was a fearless man. He offered to fight them with his trowel and hammer. They didn't bother him anymore. I guess most of the Negroes in that area were kind of groveling creatures, you know. And the lynchers just "met a pharoah that knew not Joseph," as the Bible says. I didn't have any problem; they didn't try to intimidate him anymore. Now that was in Huntsville, Alabama. My oldest brother was born in Huntsville while we were there, while my father was there working.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Are there any differences between your mother and your father? How did they get along with each other?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Fine. They had maybe little tiffs like the average family will have. My father never wanted her to whip us, so most of the things would come up about that. And then my father was a very soft-hearted man. I am like that myself; I just can hardly turn away a person that appears to be in trouble or in need. So my father was like that. And then my father was a very soft-hearted man. I am like that myself; I just can hardly turn away a person that appears to be in trouble or in need. So my father was like that. And although he had an income above average for that time he would sometimes help a fellow, and my mother would say, "Oh that no-good, you're helping him and you need it for your children." And she used to tell me sometimes, "You're going to be just like your daddy; you 're going to die in the poorhouse. You give this and you give that, and you can't turn anybody down." And I'm still the same way—I think about it all the time—I'm very soft when it comes to need or

Page 10
apparent need. So most of the differences that I remember were concerning that: his soft-heartedness, the ease with which he could be … some-times taken in, I would say. Well, she was the strong hand when it came to maintaining financial stability. Now he didn't throw away any money like some men might on drink or gambling or something like that. His only weakness was that he was soft-hearted toward any person in apparent need. And of course she always felt that she had to hold that tight hand on what she had. And when he came home, I've seen him many a time come and throw that pay envelope right in her lap. She didn't demand it, but that's what he'd do. He'd come home: "Well, here it is, Rachel." He'd buy the groceries and come home with a sack of groceries on his back. And you could take two dollars then and buy enough groceries almost to have enough for a mule to pull. He'd have this bag across his back when he'd walk from the carline down to our house, about a mile and a quarter. And what he had left from the groceries, then the bag of candy he bought every Saturday for the children. "Here it is, Rachel;" he'd give her the whole envelope. Well, she was the financier of the family.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she also the disciplinarian of the children?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, for the most part she took care of that. I guess that came about in large measure because when we first were coming up… You see, before time for me to start school they did mostly this traveling. Then when it was time for me to be put in school, then they settled down in our homestead that we'd had all the time. So then my father would go different places and work, maybe two or three months at a time, or three or four weeks or whatever it was. Sometimes he would go in a group and work a while and maybe come back weekends or like that. So at that time she had us to herself.

Page 11
And she believed in using a switch. And sometimes he would say, "Oh Rachel, let the children alone; they're not as bad as you say they are." And I've seen on two or three occasions that he'd try to stop the whipping. She would just turn the child loose and give him three or four whacks. [Laughter] And she said, "I don't know how long I'm going to live with these children, but I know if I don't straighten them out somebody will." Now we weren't that bad, but she didn't let us get an inch. She said, "If I give you an inch you'll take an L." Whatever that is, that's what she always said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were your parents very strict with you?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I would say they were positive. Now, not strict in the sense that sometimes people think, that they've had a hard, fast rules that you were used to doing this. I've heard my mother say sometimes if you dared… Of course back then children didn't hardly ask their mothers why, you know. Your mother or father'd say thus and so, that was it; that was the law of the Medes and the Persians. But sometimes there was an occasion when she'd say, "Now listen, you do this because I said to." Sometimes you'd get to that point. Now strictly from the standpoint of being almost what you might say cruel in trying to see that something would be done, it was more being just positive. And you understood that evidently when they said that they'd thought it through.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any conflicts as you were all growing up around discipline, or your wanting to do things that your parents wouldn't let you do?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't remember any. There might have been. You see, there weren't the tugs on children in those days that there are now, because parents didn't mind other people correcting their children—maybe you've heard oldsters in your family say that. And I knew that—well, I

Page 12
just didn't misbehave at school, because I knew if I misbehaved at school (although we didn't have corporal punishment at our school), I knew when I got home if they heard that I misbehaved I was going to get corporal punishment at home, you see. And then I knew that if someone told my mother (I wanted to say call my mother, but we had no telephone) that I misbehaved, that was just like she'd seen it herself.
I know my Daddy was working in Spartanburg, and I was doing something some old woman thought I shouldn't have done. I've never forgotten that. I was up the street some houses from where I lived (I was just a little kid, must have been about four or four and a half, maybe, something like that—not more than five years old). And she grabbed me by my little—children were wearing aprons then, little tie-around things. And she grabbed me back there and tore me up with a brush, a hairbrush, then turned me loose. And I flew home. And when I got home and my mother found out I had misbehaved she gave me another spanking with a hairbrush. So I knew that anywhere I happened to be, if I misbehaved somebody had their eyes on me, you know. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you just raise food for your own use, or did you raise cotton or anything else?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We raised cotton eventually, not maybe more than five or six bales because we had the farm largely where we could be occupied. And we raised all our foodstuffs except perhaps rice and sugar—or coffee, but we didn't bother with coffee much. And we made our own molasses, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, vegetables for canning. My mother would corn beef and kill pork. You know, we had smokehouse arrangements; we had our own well. So we were self-sustaining. And in addition to that my father made enough

Page 13
money to supply other needs. We had our cows and butter.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had cows?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh yes, we had cows and pigs and chickens and turkeys.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you run the farm when your mother started back teaching?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, we had the people that came in and help, the hired hands. We had hired hands for plowing until my brothers got old enough. There were families near us that had large boys that did the plowing. Now the whole cultivation for the most part was done by the girls, and the boys when they weren't plowing, like chopping the cotton or hoeing the cotton or working in the gardens.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you closer to your mother or your father?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't see any difference.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you see one of them as having more influence on you, or that you would be more like one of them in some way?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I think I'm more like my father, only in the way that I expressed a while ago, that I've very tender-hearted, so to speak. My mother was very kind too, but she wasn't … as loose with money in that kindness, you know. Now she would work all day in the fields with us for long hours, and if there was someone sick in the community she would say, "Now we've got to go and see Mrs. so-and-so tonight. She is sick, and we'll have to go see what we can do for her." And she would prepare things for them and show them how… When we moved into that area, of course, at that time the people were primitive. There was a lot of pellagra and infant mortality—I mean, maternal and infant mortality rates were high. They didn't know much about, didn't know anything about nutrition; they ate cornbread and fatback and black molasses. And cotton was king: the men that owned the cotton farms planted the

Page 14
cotton right up the back doors. They had no ground to raise a garden if they wanted one. So most of them didn't like vegetables, and a lot of them don't care about them today. But it was a long time before a lot of country people started eating vegetables. They ate meat, and many of them were existing on salt and water cornbread and fatback and molasses. And on Sunday they'd have a little something extra. They'd have a little something extra to take to church in a basket or something like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you probably much better off than most of your neighbors and the people you went to church with?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, always we were. And I think that our moving into that—in fact, I know our moving into that community, we were the leavening influence. We had to go to Sunday school, and we could read and most of the little children and their parents couldn't. They were going to school three months, and we were going to paid schools over at Benedict College. And we were able to make our little talks and read and do a lot of things that inspired the children of the area. [omission]
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
So they were at the mercy of the power structure where we were not. My father was able to send us to… See, living in the country we couldn't go to the city schools like the city children because we were living in the rural area. So we went to where we had started, where I had started school before moving to the country which was Benedict College, which at that time had the classes from the primer on up through college. So that's where I went to school from the first day I went to school until I finished college, there at Benedict.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where is Benedict?

Page 15
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Right here in town, just a half a block away from where I work every day. The older children started at Benedict. Later a brother and two sisters who started in the neighborhood rural school entered city schools when they were improved.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get into school from the country?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
What school?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Benedict.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We had a horse and carriage, and then in later years usually we walked. It was just about five miles, and we walked it. And then we had streetcars available; we used streetcars too, and we were about a mile from the streetcar line. So we used those three modes of travel.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was Benedict like as a school? What were the teachers or the quality of education like?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, the school offered a very, very fine type of education. You see, Benedict was founded by northerners, what were called Yankees, for the benefit of the freedmen, the children of the slaves. And many of the people that came in were great scholars; in fact most of them were. And we had the very finest of training and example. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the teachers mostly unmarried white women at Benedict? Were the teachers mostly white?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Some of them were couples, married couples, and some of them were widows and some were unmarried. People came down with missionary zeal, and all of them were highly religious. We had to study the Bible every day just like we studied everything else, and we got credits in Bible just like we did in arithmetic or geometry or whatever. And we had to attend chapel

Page 16
every day. It was obligatory that we go to chapel where they had devotional services and often some of the very finest speakers of the period. Today students attend chapel if they want to, and some of them never do. But the college saw that we were exposed to the finest minds that came through and that they could get their hands on. And we had a very good library, and we were supposed to use the library. We each had to own a Bible and take it with us to school, so that each had his Bible when they were ready to hold devotionals—I'm talking about chapel devotionals. There was a prayer meeting every Wednesday evening. And in the dormitories (I don't know about the boys' dormitory; I think it was true in the boys' dormitory), but in the girls' dormitory there were study hours about from seven to nine. There was an area in the dormitories that had… Well, in the one that I lived in a while, just knew about and in the case of bad weather sometimes we had to stay over, they had just like a long classroom with regular schoolroom desks. And you went to a study period from about seven to nine. Of course you could study other times in your room or go to the library, but it was obligatory that you go to that study hall; they called that going to study hour. And you didn't have any more wasted time or pussyfooting in there than you had in the classroom. Then they demanded that you … get your lessons, so to speak. There wasn't "you didn't do that well today; you'll do it tomorrow. You bring it back tomorrow." There wasn't anything like that. You did it today. And they told us that anything that was worth doing was worth doing well. And of course as far as my mother's children were concerned, we didn't have study hall. When we got through with our chores, our supper and our chores we had to get our books and sit around in the room where she was around the fire, where my

Page 17
father was if my father was at home. And we had to get our lessons, so we had study hall too. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any black teachers in the school?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. Most of them were white, but as some of them were trained and came to graduation… I remember one Miss Cecilia Gary who's still living in Chicago: quite elderly, taught Latin for years. She eventually married a man by the name of Mr. McWhorter and she moved to Chicago. There was a Miss Lula Johnson; there was a Miss Alberta Boykin who is still living (she's living in Chicago too). She was one. In a few more years there were two or three others. But in the beginning … well, there was one that taught mathmatics, a Professor Pegues who taught mathmatics. But for the most part they were white, because they had to be; there weren't enough Negroes trained up to that far for college work at that early time. See, that was just thirty-five to fifty years after slavery. And when they started off they started off mostly training for teachers and preachers. That's what Benedict's, I think its charter or it's plan called for, preparation of ministers and teachers. And of course when they started it took a good while for them, for the slaves to become financially able and keenly conscious of the need of education—that is as a whole—to get them into the spirit of sending their children to college. Then many of them even sent their children empty-handed since they had little or nothing, but they wanted them to learn. And they'd just come in wagons and bring them, maybe with one or two pieces of clothing and some potatoes or something like that. But at that time the school took them in. They didn't turn back any children because they didn't have money. They took them in, and the buildings and grounds were kept up by these people

Page 18
helping to pay their schooling. Few families were financially able to pay fully for their children. Even so, all students were given tasks to help up-keep buildings and grounds. Well, now they get maintenance crews to keep the school, and these school cats walk all around and do nothing but hang around and smoke marijuana or do whatever they want to do. They didn't turn back anybody. Some of them were grown when they came to school, and they'd go into a third grade level. But they'd keep working with them and giving them remedial lessons until they'd catch up or something with their age and their classes. So I've gone to grade school with many a grown person old enough almost to be my parent, because they just came out to school from the country in the rough, you know. But they wanted to learn, just like when you read Up From Slavery. That Booker Washington just went. Man, they just came, but they were never turned down. Never!
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you got no feeling of paternalism or racism at all from your teachers?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I didn't see any. I don't remember any earmarks of racism, none. You might call it paternalism if there was extreme interest in their well-being, which I don't think would have been paternalism as we know it today. You see, I've known some whites that have found themselves working with us in the interracial field that showed stronger earmarks of paternalism, that talk about "what we want to do for the Negroes," you know, and that type of thing. But these people served as a Christian duty. They were dedicated to this, almost as a Christian missionary going to the foreign field. Now I know a lot of them have become mercinaries in the power structure, as you perhaps know; many of them that we thought in the beginning were missionaries of burning zeal were tools of the power structure of imperialism, we know that. But there was nothing like that in these people here, because most of them worked for nothing. They came down and they had housing and they had food.

Page 19
And many of them perhaps were people, especially the widows were women whose husbands had left them with some substance. But I know many of them worked for nothing, because they had other means of income. They didn't have Social Security or stuff like that, but very likely they had husbands who had retired with pretty good income and left them income. Some of them were paid eventually, and maybe in the beginning some of them got some type of payment. But, I mean, it was more… My impression through the years was that they really wanted to serve a purpose in the lives of people who had been so … thoroughly disregarded.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were any of the teachers at Benedict… ? How did they respond after World War I and even more after World War II when blacks started trying to take action in behalf of their own lives and so on? Were Benedict teachers supportive of this?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I finished Benedict in 1921. I think by the time that was coming in that a good many of the whites that I am talking about had died out, had either died or were old enough to have retired. There were very few of them there. The only ones that I know very much about were working here at Benedict and at Allen University in the fifties. And they entered into the civil rights movement, and they were thoroughly persecuted by the State. And some of the black teachers kind of bypassed them through fear of being red-smeared, because the only tool with which the political power structure fought them, the political education in the power structure, was to red-smear them. And the average person, whether he's black or white, particularly black, doesn't want to be called a red, you see. That's the way they tried to destroy me, just calling me a Communist fellow traveler and all that stuff. But I didn't pay any attention because I beheld earlier

Page 20
that if some of the things that they claimed the Communists were advocating were some of the things that I believed in, and if that meant being a Communist I'd just have to be one. I never was a card-carrying Communist; in fact, I never have been anything but what I am today. But of course that was their way of trying to quiet people, you know. That was an awful fight here around the late fifties, when Allen and Benedict were censured by the AAVP [unknown]. And that's another fight that's too long to talk about now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did any of your teachers have any special influence on you?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't think so. I think I loved them all. I don't think of any. I guess I liked them because they were thorough, because my mother had taught us to be thorough. I don't think that there was any … I can't think of any that I was more greatly impressed with than another.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You graduated, then, in 1921?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And started teaching.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right away?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. I taught at Benedict one year; then I went into the city schools.
JACQUELYN HALL:
To Booker T. Washington?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. What was that experience like in teaching? What were quality of education and the teaching conditions like?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
At Booker?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.

Page 21
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, Booker, the city schools in Columbia have always been described as being perhaps the most outstanding in South Carolina. The system has always been well recognized and highly touted. So I couldn't have taught in a better-regulated system——I don't mean that there weren't better ones, but I mean so far as South Carolina was concerned. And they had good schools and outstanding principals.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was the principal when you were there?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Cornell Johnson, Cornell A. Johnson. We had a superintendent that was a very fine man, one Dr. Hand, that was very much, in a way, like some of the teachers that I had at Benedict. He was straight-shooting and thorough and respected people for what they were and what they could produce. And so I would say that sofar as being a schoolman, he was a big inspiration, because I never saw any earmark of racism in him, although I don't know where Hand came from. But I do know he was superintendent of schools here, and I do know that during his tenure he tried to do the best he could for all the schools so far as he could with what he had and with what the structure would let him do. And his death was a great loss. I remember him very kindly.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you happen to become a math teacher? That was your father's influence perhaps?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know. I always liked mathematics anyway. And when I went into the schools they didn't have an opening for that. I think one year I taught in the elementary school, around the sixth grade I guess it was. But as soon as they could they put me in a mathematics position. I always liked that; I liked mathematics and I liked medieval history. One of the subjects I taught at Benedict was medieval history. And they tried

Page 22
to get me to teach South Carolina history while I was in the grade thing down there, but I didn't want to—in fact, I refused to use the textbook.2 I didn't want to teach it because I didn't have any respect for it then, and don't have now. But anyway, I taught ancient and medieval history at Benedict. But I was looking for a position in mathematics, and I soon was moved into that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know Wil Lou Gray?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh yes, I've known her for years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think of her adult literacy program and of her as a person?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I think Miss Wil Lou Gray was a product of her time. I've never forgiven her for calling her school the Opportunity School and opening it only to whites. I came near clashing with her on one occasion. And I have nothing against her. I think she has done a good work as she saw it. As I said, a person can be the product of his time and his environment, you know. And so she was moving along those guidelines. And Miss Wil Lou opened night schools … was instrumental in opening a night school at my mother's school, and they had night sessions there for several years. And she saw that they had materials; but so far as the Opportunity School was concerned … it seemed to me that she should have felt that black youth needed opportunity as well as white youth. And I've never forgiven her for not being able to see that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did the Opportunity School open?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know. You'll have to look in the Manual to find out. I don't know. All of those things, those dates are listed in the Legislative Manual.

Page 23
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you try to do anything about that at the time, or have any clashes with her at the time?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no I didn't. Once when she was kind of… We were in some meeting where a friend of mine was, and Miss Will Lou was doing a whole lot of talking or heaping accolades upon herself and what she had done. And I leaned over to a friend of mine and said, "I ought to get this old sister right now, because she doesn't need all that praise, because she couldn't see that opportunity was needed by all the youth in South Carolina." And she said, "Let her alone. Don't bother her." She said, "Poor soul, she might have been doing the best she could with the vision she had. Just don't bother her"—because she knew that I'd run roughshod, you know. And so she asked me please [Laughter] not to bother Miss Wil Lou. That was. Alice Spearman, Alice Wright, Alice Norwood Spearman Wright. She said, "Please don't get involved with Miss Wil Lou tonight, because you know what you're going to do. You're going to turn the meeting out." [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you first get involved in, when did you first join the NAACP? I know your mother enrolled you in the Niagara movement when you were a child.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, you see, my mother at night when she used to read me all those old magazines about how they treated the gold diggers in the African Congo and all like that, the gold miners in Africa and different atrocities particularly on the African continent, I learned about those before I ever started to school. She'd show me the pictures, you know, as I told you before.
The NAACP's first chapter was organized here, I think, about 1916. But now I guess it was maybe in the early twenties that I became really

Page 24
active, because prior to that I was busy in school and out in the country, not coming into town very much except to come to school and go back. But now I imagine it was in the early twenties; but the branch was founded somewheres around '16 or '17.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you got involved in the NAACP, did you sense any kind of generation conflict or generation gap between the people of your age, the younger members of the organization, and the older… ?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, all of them were old folks.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were all old?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. They didn't have any youth chapters as they have now. They were all older folks. And, of course, I guess I was perhaps the youngest of the group, because I would go with my mother. My sister who passed in 1926 and I were about the youngest that were going. Of course, you see, being the oldest child in the family and being around grown people most of the time I was just kind of … more adult in my thinking, I guess. So I think a lot of the oldsters that were in the group didn't think of me as the youngster so much as somebody, a young person with exceptional back-ground that could—you know, reading and knowing all these things. And they would listen about it; it was more of a deference than there was a difference. That's the way I see it. But I never sensed anything like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
As the oldest child, did you have any special role in the family? What kind of relationship did you have with your brothers and sisters?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
They were supposed to listen to me just as they would to my mother. My mother had the idea that somehow or other her health wasn't so good. I didn't know as much about babies and having babies as children

Page 25
know now as an everyday thing. But it was during her childbearing period that she wasn't very well—I guess just conditions incidental to childbearing. And she had the idea that she might not live until her children grew up, and she'd always have them obey me in various situations. She'd say, "Now I don't know whether I'll be with you all the time. You've got to listen to somebody." And they listen to me even until this day.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That must have made you grow up very fast.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, in a way. By my father being out of town and my mother bearing children, sometimes I'd have to get in the road and get to the carline, and come downtown and look after whatever little business there was to look after. I learned early how to take care of some little family business, and go down and carry messages to my aunt that lived far on the other end of town. While we lived beyond the other end of town and out in the country, I knew how to get the streetcar and go down to their place, or purchase certain things, or maybe pay… I don't remember any bills we had to pay, except sometimes we had a furniture bill. If there were farm implements my father took care of such payments as that. But there may have been furniture bills. The only thing I can remember bills maybe where we bought some furniture, especially after our home was destroyed by fire. And I can remember having to do that, because my father never allowed us to run charge accounts. I don't run them today. We never, we never ran charge accounts, so it wasn't that type of thing—although we could have. You know, like people used to get groceries and pay for them at a certain time and all like that, but we never had that. I can remember my mother saying on one occasion (as she said on other occasions), "Now this is all we owe the man now. This is the last I have to pay, so you

Page 26
tell him to mark on that ‘Paid In Full’. And you see that he puts ‘Paid In Full’ on that when he gives you that receipt. And," she said, "always when you have a bill, when you pay the last of it you have him mark on it ‘Paid In Full.’ And then if you've lost some of the other receipts you'll have that one." See, they didn't have checking accounts, so they just paid. And now I've known children over there that have said to me, "I paid all this"—happened at Allen's several years. "I know I paid all my bill. They told me I paid up. When I got ready to graduate they told me I owed some more money." I said, "Well, if they told you it's paid off, why didn't you get it ‘Paid In Full’? That's what my Ma always taught me, you know."
I've never forgotten that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your mother have her babies at home?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
With a midwife or with a doctor?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, midwife.
JACQUELYN HALL:
With a midwife?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Somebody that lived around there?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember that? What did you kids do when your mother… ?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I remember it. They always sent us to a friend's home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know what was going on?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, didn't know anything about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you learn about the birthing of babies?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know, but I was grown enough to be a mother myself before I knew. [Laughter]

Page 27
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really? [Laughter]
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, they kept us close to cloistered on that type of thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were your brothers treated any differently than the girls?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know that they were. All of us had to work, and had to go to bed when we got through working. As I told somebody the other day, I told them about vacation. I said, "My mother and father didn't know how to spell vacation." I said, "God made the world so you tear your body down working in the day; you recreate it resting at night." I said, "But your trouble is you work in the day and then you raise the devil half the night and sleep about four hours. Then the next day you can't half work." See, a lot of people don't realize that. If we treat our bodies like the Lord intended us to treat them we wouldn't need vacations. I'm tired today when I get through work; I take my bath and go to bed, and my body recreates itself overnight. Then next morning I'm fresh to go, unless I cut it one way or the other.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me the names of your brothers and sisters and when they were born, if you remember.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh, I don't know when all of them were born.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't know when they were born?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know when all of them were born. I had a sister that died in infancy. Her name was Sarah Clyde. She died when she was about fourteen months old. And then I had a sister that came to maturity and died in 1926. She was teaching in the Columbia city schools when she died. She had a ruptured appendix and peritonitis.
That sister's name was Rovena Lucile. Then my brother who is a practicing physician and a surgeon here was the fourth

Page 28
child. Then I have a brother named Frank and a younger sister named Emma Watson Wheeler.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was his name?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
His name was Henry Dobbins; he was named Dobbins after my grandfather and great-grandfather.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now is he the brother that integrated the university?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Didn't one of your brothers?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, that was a sister. Then my brother's name is Henry Dobbins. Then I have another brother whose name is Frank Hull; he carries my mother's maiden name, Frank Hull. Then my next brother's name was Charles Walton; he has passed. And then I had a sister Rebecca, Rachel Rebecca, who integrated the University of South Carolina. Now she was married to a Mr. Roberts, and by that union there were two children. She divorced him and legally applied to take back her maiden name and to change the children's names into the family name. So they go by Montieth. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I thought that I read that one of the first three black students in the university was a Henri Montieth.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, that's my sister's child.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see, I see.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
She's named Henri. They called it Henri, the French for Henry. She's really named for my brother.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. So she brought the suit.

Page 29
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
My sister Rebecca brought it in the name of her daughter Henri.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, Henri is a girl.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see, I see.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you meet your husband? [Andrew Simkins]
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh, he was here in Columbia in business, and I just ran into him, that's all
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he do?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
He was a businessman: a filling station and state liquor store, and in real estate. He did a lot of business in real estate.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had been a wheelwright before this in Columbia?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No. He taught wheelwrighting at South Carolina State College in the time, you know, when they were having buggies and carriages and wagons and all like that, farm implements. But he taught that there. He was also a very good carpenter. He laid all these floors in this house.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He built this house?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no. Lord, this house was built before he was born. No, he laid the floors after we came here. These floors were worn and he laid these. This house has a double floor. And then when he left South Carolina State College he worked in insurance awhile with the North Carolina Mutual. And then he went into business here in Columbia. And that's where I met him, after he came to Columbia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How long did you know each other before you were married?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Hmm. Oh, I guess about six or nine months, something like

Page 30
that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And he had six children?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Five.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had five children?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was it like, suddenly finding yourself the mother of five children?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, it wasn't… Well, three of the children were living with a relative down in Dorchester County, one of them was with one of his sisters and one with a sister of his mother. So it didn't seem… We didn't have the three younger children with us for quite a while. And then when they did come the lady that had kept them for several years came with them; so she was … a second cousin in this way, that she was the child of the oldest sister of a family of ten or eleven children. And these children's mother was the child of the baby of those children. So these little children were very much … she was almost like a grandmother to them, you see. So she had virtual oversight of them, because I was out working with the TB Association at that time. She had virtual over-sight of them. And then I had a housekeeper too, because I was on the road all the time. I had a very good housekeeper that was with me about sixteen years. So that really after all there wasn't a whole lot that I had to do from the standpoint of actual care, because with the younger ones this elderly cousin was just about like a mother or a grandmother to them—and she was almost like a mother to me, in a way. And then by that time the two older boys were getting on into college age, so that so far as being bumfuzzled by having a bunch of children to be responsible for all at one

Page 31
time, it wasn't that. And then I didn't have to do (before I got this housekeeper) the laundry or anything like that because when I first married my husband said, "Now, whoever is taking care of your laundry now, if you can keep them you keep them on and let them do that." I never ironed a dress shirt for my husband in my life; all that just channeled after we got this housekeeper into there. And she took care of everything: took care of the home and my clothing and everything, the family, you know, laundry and all like that. And my clothing when I came off the road was ready for me to go back on another trip and like that. So I never did really have the burden of housekeeping, and still don't know how to do much of it, because when I was in the country I would stay in the field rather than work in the house. So it wasn't the problem that it might seem to be.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was your husband a good bit older than you?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Sixteen years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you happen to marry an older man?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, how do people happen to marry? They just happen to marry! I don't know why it happened, I just happened to marry, that's all. [Laughter] That's the only way I can explain it. It didn't seem to present any problem. It was just that I married somebody.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was he involved in the kinds of civic activity?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
He wasn't that much interested. He would give, but so far as being involved in the way that I was and to the extent that I was… He wanted to see changes, and every now and then he'd write a letter. He said, "I want you to write a letter about something I read in the paper this morning," or something like that. "Write a letter to the paper about that." And he would say some things he'd like said in the letter, and he

Page 32
would give to efforts. But now so far as getting out and going on the grind like I did, he didn't do it. Of course, not many people do, as far as that goes. And there are many people in this town that ought to be on a grind for this thing all the time, but you don't hear a thing out of them 'til something happens to them or some of their children. Then here they come wondering if you can't do something. They say, "You know all these people; you're always working with them," and all that type of thing. That's when you hear from them, when they get their tails caught in a crack.
But he liked social life; I never did, but he did. So he went to all the parties. He liked to play whist and poker; he came from a large family that were very skillful in cards——their father taught them that. He was a great card player. So he liked those things. He would go to card parties and receptions and things. All those things were boring to me. So it was just understood by our friends that "You see him here, but she just doesn't care for it much." You know, like you might see a husband somewhere and not a wife, you say, "There must be something wrong with them. They must be mad." But my friends understand even today there's no need to invite me to certain things because I wouldn't be there. I just don't care for them, and I don't feel like being bored to give somebody the pleasure of my company.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he mind your being on the road all the time and so involved in everything?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no, he didn't mind at all. And he was a man that loved company. Very often I'd come home and find people put up here because there wasn't anyplace for Negroes to stay here (you know, like they have now motels and all). And they'd come in. All he had to do it to know that

Page 33
they knew me. I've come home many a time and this guest room and maybe the back one there (that extra room back there) would have people. And he'd say, "Some people came up to the house. They said they knew you and had heard about you, and they worked with you in the Christmas Seal campaign." I said, "Well, that's all right, that's all right." And we'd have a nice time with the company. But he loved company. And that was one of the things that I liked about him more than anything else, that he loved company. And anybody that he knew had been kind to me on the road, he felt like he was indebted to them, because even in those days a lot of people would be kind to you, house you, give you food. And they wouldn't charge you, because they knew that there was nothing else, there was nowhere else to stay. And they felt that you were performing a function that was needed by the people. The pay at some places most times didn't pay at all. And then they'd give you something when you were leaving, like some smoked bacon or some eggs, or some collards, or something or another … "So glad you stopped at my house. Come back again." See, a lot of them … then, tv's hadn't come into style, and I was on the road. Well, they were just glad to see somebody from ‘way’ cross over yonder somewhere.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had to quit teaching when you got married.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, the Columbia city schools didn't hire any married teachers. So, when you married, if it was in the middle of the school year, you got out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I didn't think anything of it. I just accepted that that was their rule, and that was what I had to go by, just like anybody

Page 34
else did. I never bother about something supposed to be laid down. My students were very much upset when I left. But that didn't make any difference. I don't think the superintendent would have cared if I had been kept on. I think the principal might have been glad because I was one he just couldn't handle. He couldn't make me buckle down. I don't mean to do anything bad, but I was one that would stand up and express myself at faculty meetings and things like that. I think if he had wanted to, really, he could have asked the superintendent to make a special case of it, you know. But I think, by George, I've been a lot of places where they wished I would hurry and get out. So that was just one. [Laughter] I've been many a place where it felt like, when I was going out, maybe in a little while I'd feel a knife sticking in my back, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That was in 1929, is that right?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And then you went to work for the TB Association?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. I didn't go to work for them, oh, for about two years. Oh, I don't know, about two years: '31, I guess it was. '31 or

Page 35
'32; I've forgotten which.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was that job like?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, they were looking for somebody to do health education instruction in the schools, teaching health instruction to teachers. The TB Association was entering into a public health instruction—school health instruction, I should say—and we were to put on a state-wide program of that. They were looking for somebody that had the type of educational background like I had. Somebody recommended me; I don't know who. I finally took the job. They sent me away to school. I went up to Ypsilanti and took some courses at the University of Michigan at Ypsilanti. A few years later, they sent me up to the University of Michigan … that school is noted for its work in public health, as you know perhaps. Then, a part of my work was to promote the sale of Christmas seals to help pay for the tuberculosis program.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they get any money from the state, or was it all from…
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It was private. The money came from Christmas seals.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who ran the Tuberculosis Association?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It was run by the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association, which was a private …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a board?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, it had a board.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it mostly women or men?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, about equal, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And they had what, a colored division?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, they had what they called a Negro program.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any blacks on the board?

Page 36
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, not on the board. This Negro group was kind of an advisory group. For instance, when they had the annual meetings, they'd hardly have a Negro there. If they did, they'd put him a way over in the corner somewhere. I never would bother with going to them because I didn't let anybody sit me in a corner. I'd just sit in my own corner in my house. But after I worked my program up quite a while, I had so many volunteers, scores and scores of them, that on several occasions I called my workers together and I'd always have a reception for them here during the State Teachers Association. Many of them were teachers. That irritated me, I mean just angered me because they were always telling me that tuberculosis is the greatest threat to blacks, and yet when they'd have these state meetings and they'd bring these authorities in on tuberculosis, case-finding and all that type of thing, the Negroes weren't there. They had them, and then they would kind of do like a pigeon: eat something and regurgitate it to the little pigeons. Well, that's the kind of thing that was.
I really had to tell my boss off one day when she was trying to make some kind of excuse about these separate things. You know, I knew why they were separate 'cause I knew what these segregation things were in these hotels and things. I said, "Well, one thing is boiled down to this. You all are concerned more about eating an old cold piece of chicken and a few little ol' green peas sitting up in the top of a pile of potatoes than you are about actually fighting tuberculosis." Oh, all that stuff just got on my nerves. Every now and then I'd have to boil it over.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was your boss?

Page 37
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
A woman named Chauncey MacDonald—C-H-A-U-N-C-E-Y Blackburn. She came from a family of Blackburns, Chauncey Blackburn MacDonald. A highly religious family. I didn't say Christian; I said religious.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did she respond to your …
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh, she thought it was awful that I would think like that. She thought quite often that I was an awful creature.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What other conflicts did you have?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I had several … one that I think of. Well, there were two other outstanding. One was that she did not want me to work with NAACP, didn't want to hear about me being connected with NAACP in any way. And she called me in one day … which, I wasn't taking any time from my job working with NAACP. But she didn't want to hear of me bothering … at that time, the ferment had started in the state. The NAACP conference was organized in 1940, state conference. She heard about that, and the man who was president was a firebrand in a way. And she—I think some of the Negroes on that board had something to do with it—but she said that she thought that I ought to let somebody else take on the fight like that, and I tend to what I was doing. I said, "Well, I'm not doing it on the time." I said, "I can belong to NAACP, and it doesn't affect my work. You ask me, you say, you want production. Am I bringing production?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Well, what's the gripe?" Well, she just thought that I ought not be in it. This man Hinton was an awful man and I shouldn't be connected, and she would prefer that I shouldn't. I said, "Well, if

Page 38
that's the way you feel about it, I'll tell you how I feel about it. I'd rather all Negroes die and go to hell with tuberculosis than go through some of the things they're suffering right now, and that the NAACP is trying to stop them." She said, "Ooh, ooh, ooh." Why, she just come near having ten kittens, you know! [Laughter]
That was one. And then around in that time, they made a picture down in Tuskegee about … some picture to help fight tuberculosis called "Let My People Live." And they premiered that picture in Camden. I mean, so far as South Carolina was concerned, they premiered it in Camden. I don't know where I saw it. I guess I saw it … I don't know where I saw it, but I saw it before she saw it. And some old woman in Camden saw it before she saw it. So she told me that Miss So-and-So in Camden said that they said that they were making "Let My People Live" as a picture by Negroes to help fight tuberculosis among Negroes. But it looks like they had more fair Negroes in it than they had actual showing of black Negroes. I said, "I saw ‘Let My People Live’." I said, "That old woman doesn't know what she's talking about." I said, "She either didn't see the picture or she didn't try to see it through because she got too shook up before she saw all of it." I said, "The preacher they got in there's as black as any ink I ever saw." I said, "And they've got the choir of Tuskegee in it, and I know there's no white people on that. And if there's any yellow ones on that, they didn't make themselves yellow."
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

39a page
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was just going to ask you why you quit working for the Association in 1942, for the Tuberculosis Association. Isn't that right?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. I quit working for them because the conditions became untenable, because of certain of these, you know, restrictions that were there because of the NAACP. My boss told me that he thought I would have to resign. I told her that I was not going to resign, that she would have to fire me because I hadn't done anything to resign for, and my work (according to what she said to me) had been productive and satisfactory and that I had no reason to resign, and she could just fire me, which she did not want to do. She told me I built up my program on personality,

39b page
and what she meant by that was that I had made myself so close to the people that maybe it could create a problem. I said, "I think anybody that builds a public relations program builds it on personality." I said, "Jesus Christ built his on personality, so I don't see why you should fault me for that." So as I said yesterday, there were people in that black committee, in that Negro program that she had, that were easily influenced and handled by her. And when push came to shove, why, my opinion is that they decided in the meeting that since … Well, see, some of them didn't like the thrust that NAACP was making at that time, right at the beginning of the forties, into the political action field trying to get the ballot. So some of them (one or two of them) on that board were as reactionary as she was, even though they were black and she was white (reactionary, I mean, to the program that was evolving at that time towards the civil rights movement). Nobody could foresee at that time that the civil rights movement would gather the momentum that it did in the next ten to fifteen years. But the strength of it at that time was so far removed from what it had been that the Negroes were going to make it very definite that they were out for the federal courts and the ballot. And of course, with what I told you yesterday, I didn't see any need of keeping people from having tuberculosis and then letting them suffer other things that might be worse even than slavery. So then they just decided. And I don't know how that was done, except that I do know that my services were no longer acceptable. I had gone into the program in 1932 with the state being divided into two what they called organized and unorganized sections. I had at that time, as I remember, about thirteen counties that were in the very poorly developed sections of the state, and they were called

Page 40
unorganized. And I had charge of the beginning of the Christmas Seal program in that area, which when I went into it they gave me a report that was around eighteen hundred dollars for the sale in that area (meaning seal sales among Negroes in 1932, as I remember. Those records are at my house.) Then in 1942 when I left I had worked until I had carried the income from the Negro Seal sale to $42,000, see. And then I had organized, helped to organize, clinics. I'd worked with the Health Department. Another difference we had was, as I told you she had her qualms about venereal diseases: the old-time idea that the way you get venereal disease is a sin. She always connected it with illicit sexual activity. And she did not want me to talk about venereal diseases at all in my program; and I aimed my program toward maternal and infant mortality, and venereal diseases—and tuberculosis—three of the four things. But anyway, she did not want me to enter into any work in connection with venereal diseases—that is, in my public health education program. So I refused to conform there, because I knew that the venereal diseases were a problem. And since at that time we didn't have anything but 606 (and it was a long-time treatment) we had to work even harder in preventive programs than you have to today when you have a kind of quick cure, you know. So that was another one of the kind of endemic frictions, her feeling about anybody who had venereal disease not worth bothering with—they'd been sinning, you know.
So anyway, at the time that I left there was a woman by the name of Mrs. Parler. She has a PhD. Well, I guess she's retired from State College now, but her husband was principal of one of the schools in Orangeburg and she was teaching, as I remember, at State College or in one of the city schools. But it was suggested that she be my successor. And the people,

Page 41
although they had nothing against her, they didn't want to accept her. They didn't know her; I'd been working with them for ten years. I knew when some of their children were born and been to their weddings and been involved with them, and handed little cookies or cake or something or other once a year. And a number of them I'd been in Benedict College with; a number of them knew that I was working in efforts that would help their children in generations to come. And the fact is I was tied very closely in with them. But it was something I didn't try to do; it just happened. And then I'm a person that works easily with people. I love people and I sympathize. And so I couldn't help because she said that I based my program on, that it was a popularity program. I didn't make any effort to be popular. I just went on and did my work. However, when Mrs. Parler came on the job she found some letters in the file. They handed her the files to go through. And she ran across some letters concerning the actions taken leading up to my departure. And I don't remember whether Mrs. Parler told me or her husband told me, but one of them told me—he is now dead. But I was told that when he saw these letters he said, "You cannot work there anymore if that's the way they did her, as good a job as she was doing. You take your things and come home." And that was the end of that. They never had another director of Negro program after that. They tried, but they could never get the Negro populace to accept a person in that position. So that's the milk in the coconut.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the funds that you raised used in the black community? And was that the limit of the funds that were used there, or did they divide equitably over all?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
They were put into the general fund. We had really a

Page 42
better health education program than there was in the white schools, because nobody had the training that I had. They had sent me away for training, as I told you yesterday, and I had had so many years of teaching experience. And then I was able to organize those clinics. (I may be able to find and send you one of our plans; there ought to be something in my old files.) But I helped organize clinics in what we called independent, unorganized territory, and I helped and worked up these what we called institutes, school health institutes for teachers. And at that time there were no water systems in schools or flushing toilets like that, and we had to teach them about, you know, outdoor privies, how to construct them properly and about having some type of arrangement in the school for individual drinking water service, and then teaching them about certain things like scabies and impetigo and the need for innoculation and all that type of stuff. I mean, all that had to be taught in there. And then I helped to organize midwifery clinics, because practically all the children in the state at that time were being delivered by midwives. And so Mrs. MacDonald, who was my boss, had a sister who was very, very different from herself, very modern in her thinking. And she had charge of the midwifery program in the state, so I worked with her. She was Miss Laura Blackman. And Miss Blackman and I worked closely in the midwifery clinics. And also there were ministers' institutes, where I was able to get the people who came in to hold these institutes for ministers during the summer (kind of like the old vacation Bible schools for children); I was able to get them interested in getting health lectures into those institutes, so we could get them out to their congregations. So all of that was a part of that program, so it would just have been a hard load for her to pull up the hill just jumping in there new, you know. So that was the

Page 43
virtual end of the program of that nature.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wanted to ask you before we go on into the thirties just a couple of things back in about the twenties. In the old Interracial Commission, did you know or work with Mrs. Marion Birnie Wilkinson?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. She was the wife of the president of State College.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Can you tell me something about her, what she was like and what kind of role she played in things?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I never worked with her directly in the Interracial set-up. I know that she did belong to the state Interracial. But she lived in Orangeburg. She was a most gracious lady, queenly in her carriage and all, very, very refined. And she organized or was one of the organizers of the Colored Federation of Women's Clubs. I never have joined the clubs myself; I've never been a joiner, I'm more of a lone wolf type of person. But I do know the good work that it did. And I knew her quite well, especially since I worked at State College eleven summers. We also carried this program into the summer school at State College. So I knew her quite well, her husband and her children.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think of his administration at State?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, he was president, I think, only … He wasn't there very long after I got there. I've forgotten what year he died. Anyway, I was at State College when he died, because I'd be down there every summer. But I guess I just have to say that he was about as much as you could expect for the time. All those people largely worked at the whims of the power structure. They didn't always fight for all the money they should have for the school; they didn't demand black participation on the boards. We still don't have any black participant on the boards of the

Page 44
other (white) colleges in the state. But up until just a few years ago the State College board was totally white. And when the board would meet in a summer session they cleared out the home economics house, you know which they had built for demonstration purposes for housekeeping and serving food and all that type of thing, table manners and all that high class home economics work [unknown] Anyway, then they'd move those board members into there, where they were treated like kings. Some of them were regular old hayseeds, but they were down there on the board of State College, I guess trying to see what they were doing for the Negroes, I reckon, or saying what ought to be done about them. One or two of them were merchants that got the benefit of selling to the school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But at that time you didn't feel extremely critical of the State administration?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
State College administration?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes. That they could have done much more than they did?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I guess being the people they were they couldn't have. If I had been there I'd have done it different; I mean, being the person I am I would have had perhaps a greater degree of concentration—because after all, I would have compared what a pittance State College was getting when it was the only source of higher education for Negroes in the state (that is, tax supported) and what these other schools were getting. And I would have been demanding more money. And I would have tried to build the school up to where if a person went, say, through sophomore at State College he would be accepted at the University of South Carolina, which they refused to do because they knew that the advantages were not equivalent, to say

Page 45
nothing of being equal.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I know the Federation of Women's Clubs supported a home for delinquent girls.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, it was called the Farwald School, later Wilkenson Home—now an orphanage.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they involve themselves in any kind of protest or civil rights action at all?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no. Now I wasn't close enough to them to go to their annual meetings. I didn't have anything against them, and I thought they were doing good work, and from time to time I contributed financially. But it's just not my kind of program. I'm glad they did it, but I was doing something they wouldn't have done, you see. And I felt that since I had the philosophy that I did the best thing to do was to let them have their little thing and I'd take my little thing, you see. But I think whatever they did, it all came and converged into a purpose. But I wasn't close enough to know all of the details.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mentioned when you first joined the Columbia NAACP going to meetings with your mother. Was your mother a member?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, she was a member.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But not your father?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No. My father, as I remember I don't remember him ever having gone. In fact, my father didn't go to very many places. On the weekends he usually stayed at home with the children or around the farm, and relaxed himself, and often oiled and polished his guns (kept for home protection).
JACQUELYN HALL:
It wasn't due to any difference in …
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
… philosophy or anything between them?

Page 46
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no. He was 100 percent for that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now during the thirties, then, during the period of the Depression, you told when we talked the first time about your efforts to get the WPA to hire black white collar workers, black professionals to teach. Were you involved in any other efforts to try to make the New Deal more responsive to blacks?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
That was about perhaps the only thing there, with the exception of how it tied in with the work that I was doing with the Health Department. You see, I worked closely at that time… There were certain things that we'd get through the Health Department like literature and maybe film slides or … cottonseed meal to use for pellagra, because yeast ran short. And they fed yeast a lot to people who were malnourished to the point of developing pellagra.
But now other than this particular thing of publicizing the advantages of NYA and WPA and getting as many people, blacks into white collar positions as we could (where they were hiring white collar people of that degree of training), the main thing was that certain things that were done in the school health programs easily tied in with the nutrition processes and all they were trying to get through in the recovery period. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you stay in the Republican party for so long?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, for the simple reason that I always believed that we ought to have a two-party state. And then too, there was a time that the only way you could show any evidence of party interest—that is that Negroes could—was in the so-called Republican party. I did not belong to what was called the Joe Tolbert faction of the party. Old Joe Tolbert, they called him "tieless Joe;" he never wore a tie and his shoes were

Page 47
never laced up that I remember. I never was connected with the Joe Tolbert group. I was connected with the J. Bates Gerald group of the Republican party; it was sometimes spoken of as the Gerald Massering group. And I hoped all through that time that eventually we would have another political entity, that is some way to strike back at what I hated in the South Carolina Democratic party. And so after the rise of the Progressive Democratic party and the effect it had on making certain inroads into the regular Democratic party, then and then after 1948… In 1948 when the Civil Rights Report was brought out, the Truman Report, certain people who were in the Democratic party and who would not have dared to be called Republicans ran out of the party like a bunch of drowning rats, or rats scared to drown, and came over into the Dixicrat party, which fed again into the South Carolina Republican party. They were not people that were Republicans because they wanted to be Republicans or because they admired the actions of Lincoln or anything like that. They just didn't, could not tolerate the idea of the Civil Rights Report and Truman's actions in that connection. So then when in 1952, that is when Adlai Stevenson was running and when the platform of the… I mean, I left the party at a meeting where I saw a lot of these people that had come in and had never been in the movement like I was with some other young white Republicans, particularly young men who were anxious, as I was, to see a real sort of party-building, not on emotions but just on actual strategy, because we thought there should be eventually a checks and balances process in the political system, you see. So the last meeting that I attended was in Jefferson Hotel here in Columbia. The hotel is no more; it's where Jefferson Square is now. And I saw all

Page 48
of these tramps coming out and calling themselves Republicans and looking funny at me, and I could see that they… Well, they looked like they had crawled out of some cracks from somewhere. I didn't know where they had come from. But anyway, I knew from some things they were saying in there that I wasn't going to tolerate that situation. So the last Republican meeting that I attended was in Jefferson Hotel. And when they talked some things I didn't like to hear I gave them a little piece of my mind and walked out and slammed the French door. And that's the last I've been in the Republican meetings. And so in 1952 I voted the Democratic ticket in the Stevenson campaign. I remember we did not have the vote in the Democratic party all that time before, so the only action we could show was every four years to vote in the general election on the Republican ticket, because the primaries were tantamount to election. So the general election didn't mean anything then like it does now. It did in North Carolina, but not in South Carolina. We were definitely a one party state. So the only way you could say where you took a part in politics was every four years to vote in the general election. And then you voted the Republican ticket; that was all you could vote. And my father always said that whatever you could do politically, whenever you had a chance to do anything do that. He always voted; he voted in every general election. And of course when I got my registration ticket I tried to do the same thing. Now we did have in the city what they called a city general election, but it was just a farce because, after all, these Democrats got it in the primary, you know.
[Summary of omission concerning involvement in the Southern Conference for Human Welfare: She learned of the organization from Seymour Carol

Page 49
attended the founding meeting at Birmingham in 1938. She got on the mailing list, and later became a member of the SCHW board. He told her about the famous incident in which Eleanor Roosevelt insisted on sitting in the exact center of the auditorium, on the line segregating whites from blacks.]
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you compare the Southern Conference with the Southern Regional Council when it was organized then a few years later?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I would say that I had never quite thought of that. But I would say that the Southern Conference for Human Welfare was organized as a direct outcome of the Roosevelt recovery program, and that I believe it was perhaps closer to the desire to provide absolute human necessities, because the people were on bread lines. My husband didn't have work; he worked on the bread line serving soup and apples to people here that were on the bread line. And the people were just on their knees. People were marching on Washington, being driven into on the horseback—you know, you've read about that, those things. And the people, many of them were in abject poverty. I've ridden into certain sections of this state where I wondered if South Carolina would ever come back. (Of course that wasn't only South Carolina but I was working in South Carolina.) I've seen pot-bellied children eaten up with hookworm, rickets, impetigo, scabies, every earmark of malnutrition, and nothing to look forward to, nothing. You'd walk in some houses and you wouldn't see anything, nothing. So I would say that ERA started out to administer to the abject human needs, if that's any way to express it. I mean, just a need that was so cruel that it would be hard for the average person to realize. I realized it because I saw it in my job. And I've always said that the most pitiful

Page 50
human being in the world is what Negroes call a "Poor Tacky." You know what a "Poor Tacky" is: a very, very, very poor white person, like we found in mill villages and on tobacco road, that type. And I don't think there's anything more pitiful in the world. I used to ride through these towns where the factories were, the cotton mills, and see those poor little children, barefooted, barelegged, bowlegged, razor shins and pigeon-breasts. You could just look at them and tell they were infested with hookworms, and you'd wonder what was going to come back. So I say that the Roosevelt program came as almost a program out of the hands of Jesus Christ, you know.
But now, coming to the Southern Regional, the Southern Regional approached more on a philosophical plane. They appealed to the conditioning of the minds of the people to reach these needs, or merely to raise them to a higher plane of social and political involvement. But this other program I see as one of absolute necessity. You couldn't think about improving the person's mind when he had an empty belly. Christ knew that; Christ didn't preach to people that had an empty stomach. He said, "Feed them. Sit them down and feed them; then I'll preach to them, I'll teach them." And so we used to say in school, we used to tell our teachers that. An empty bag won't stand up; you have to see that the children get food some way. They didn't have school lunchs; a lot of the children didn't have any lunch to bring to school. So I think that although both of them were moving in the same direction, one was where you had to just answer the basic physical, the basic, naked physical needs of the people, and the other was conditioned to a plane of people that could sympathize, and provide and perhaps plan

Page 51
to help raise this level philosophically or socially. Now that's the way I see it. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
And then you were involved in the Council several years?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
What Council?
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Southern Regional Council.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh yes, I've always belonged and always worked in it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Remember when the Council first came out in 1951 with a public statement against segregation?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't remember it coming out. I remember that the Southern Conference for Human Welfare did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Earlier than that.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
[Summary of omission concerning the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF): Discussion of red-baiting, Richard Nixon, and her recent resignation from the SCEF board.]
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you assess the role that interracial organizations like SCEF and the Southern Regional Council have played in the movement in the South?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I can't fully assess it. I could just say that I don't think the South would be the same without what they did, because they opened the eyes of a number of people. The thing that the political power structure had against the organizations of that kind was the fear that they would bring the black and white mass together. And the power structure has always feared the combining of the forces of

Page 52
black and white masses. I can remember the first meeting of the Southern Negro Youth Congress I went to in Knoxville where there were miners, people in brogan shoes, overalls, just like they wear jeans around here now. The average person didn't think of wearing them then unless they were going to the field or going to the mines. And those fellows came out there with brogans, and overalls, and sunhats, and all of them were working and planning together. Well, the first thing they did when they got a chance was to red smear and disrupt the movement. Now, I think if the Southern Negro Youth Congress, for instance, could have gone on, there would have been a very great change in the South because the younger people would have worked together better. But the power structure doesn't want that. They don't want poor whites and Negroes getting along together. There's always been the effort, either obvious or subtle, on the part of the reigning element to keep the forces of blacks and whites apart. But they built it on the sex angle. They always say, "They'll rape your women. They want to marry your daughter." But they weren't thinking about that. They didn't care any more about a poor white than they did about a Negro. And they still don't. They just give them a little more deference because he's white like they are, but they don't give a damn about a poor white. They'll exploit him just like they will a Negro. I've seen it. I know what I'm talking about.
So that was their affair. Why do they have to worry about Negro men and their women? If they hadn't power enough to hold their women, if somebody could take their women from 'em,, why, they ought to take 'em. You see? Just like I hear people say sometimes if a woman can't hold her husband

Page 53
why would she want to get mad with somebody else for taking him? She ought to be able to hold him, treat him right, give him good food, take care of him. You never find, for instance, as I heard an old preacher say once, you'll never find a dog leaving home and going to stay at somebody else's house if you're treating that dog all right at your house. He's not going anywhere else. Well, when you find the dog trotting over there every time you turn around, somebody's throwing him a bone over there. He never gets a bone over here, just gets some dry bread and maybe a kick in the fanny, you know? [Laughter]
So, they use that sex thing. And they have used it as a social equality angle. They wanted to keep those forces apart, and they wanted to see that Negroes wouldn't take your job. When the unions come in, they try to tell whites if you get a union, the Negroes will take your jobs. They'll be making much as you make, or they'll bring your salary down to theirs, and all that kind of stuff. It's to divide the forces. They have always done that, and that's the reason a white Populist is not able to get anywhere much in the South. You see, the old Populist movement was killed, killed and almost died being born, because certain people who were Populists, not long after Reconstruction, would have destroyed their scheme.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you hear or know anything about the Populist movement when you were growing up?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No. My father used to talk about some of those … I used to hear him talk a lot about Tom Watson in Georgia and his, you know, the effect that, you know … he always spoke pleasantly of Tom

Page 54
Watson and what he felt that his philosophy would do for the poor man. But they killed off Tom Watson. They kill off anybody who looks like he's going to do something for the poor man or for the masses, just like they're jumping on little old, that little old Carter, now, from Georgia. They're not going to give him an easy time, and they know that he can't do but so much with the Congress that, if he doesn't do it in the first year or two he's in there, after that the honeymoon will be over and he'll be burnt up.
But the fact is, they are not interested in the masses or the people coming together. And they realize … I mean, history has repeated itself that you can't pressure the mass but so much before it revolts. I thought, I still think, I think things are a little easier now. But I would say six months ago, I believed fervently that we were moving toward a revolution in this country.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Six months ago?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, the people were pressured with obligations and, you know, disillusioned by Watergate, disillusioned particularly by the fact that a shoplifter around here might be sent to prison for taking a loaf of bread for his hungry children and Nixon's over there having protection. You hear all the men off the street talking about that coming in here, people on the street. You know, they say, "Why should we behave, why do they put us in jail for thus-and-so, and they're taxing on us to let Nixon sit down and give him protection by the Secret Service

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and all like that. Now, six to nine months to a year ago, the thinking of this country was volatile. There isn't any getting around it; it was volatile. I sense an easing now, but if Ford stays in there its going to come up again. I mean, if that set stays in there, its going to come up again.
[omission]
You see, there were some very, very highly intelligent young men who organized the Southern Negro Youth Congress, some of the most brilliant men I've ever known.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the …
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, there was Louis Bernham, who's now dead; James Jackson, who's still living and works for the Communist Party; and a fellow named Strong. I've forgotten Strong's first name. And then there was Esther Jackson, James Jackson's wife, now with Freedomways.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is she living?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
She's living—a brilliant young woman. You know, you perhaps read that James went into hiding for a number of years. Where he went, I don't know, but he was in hiding for a number of years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, they intended to persecute him like they did some other people who they said had communist leanings. Paul Robeson was closely connected with the Southern Negro Youth Congress. W. E. B. DuBois was an adherer. I don't remember the others. I have some programs from their meetings. I'm hoping, oh, about the next year to get all that stuff out.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the leaders of the Southern Negro Youth Congress go on to become key people in the civil rights movement twenty years later, or did they leave the South, or what happened to those people?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, they are connected with various interests. Whenever I go to New York, I see them. I was in New York to a dinner there for … I can't remember his name now, but anyway, I saw a number of them there. They're still interested in some phase of the movement.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the leadership southern?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I would say it was mixed. I guess the strongest element was perhaps the black students from northern universities.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who came down to the South?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you compare the Congress with SNCC?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I would say it was similar organizations, similar in ideals. It so happened at the time the Congress was on, we didn't have the vote in the South.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there white students in the organization?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
In the Negro Youth Congress? Yes, there were some. There were, in '46, there were a number of them at Birmingham. Some of them were arrested and persecuted by Bull Connor and his crowd in Birmingham. I was down in Birmingham at the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Congress was accused of being a communist front organization, of course.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would you say that the role of the Communist Party in the

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in the southern movement was? There had been …
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know. I'm not able to discuss that. I always heard a lot about Communists trying to influence Negroes and organizing them into certain movements and all like that, but I never saw any effect of it. The main effect I saw of the Communist Party in the South—and I didn't see that—but I do know that they were highly instrumental in the Scottsboro case. But other than that, I know after the Scottsboro case, Ben Davis, who became an outstanding Communist and served as a Communist Party member of the New York City Council, he lived in Atlanta, born and reared in Atlanta. But I never saw this thing they were talking about, that the Communists were always trying to influence and build a whole phalanx of activities among blacks. I never saw evidences of that. Now, I don't say that it wasn't, but I never saw it. And I got about as sharp eyes as anybody I think. I know none ever approached me. I know that. I never had anybody ask me to belong to the Communist Party or to belong to an organization that could be truthfully said to be communist. Now, I belonged to all kind of things that were called communist fronts, so that I've been Red-smeared up and down South Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you ever called before HUAC?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Never. I wanted to be, but they never called me. I wanted to get before them. I thought once kind of during the Henry Wallace campaign that I might be, but I wasn't. I think Clark Foreman was hoping that he would, too, but I don't think they ever called Clark before them.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
From '42 to '56 then, you were a freelance person, right?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you do some writing, some journalism during that time?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I did some writing. I did some writing for the Norfolk Journal and Guide for, I guess, about two years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were a correspondent?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It was just feature writing on activities in South Carolina. Other than that, I didn't do anything. Mainly during that period I was working with NAACP as a state secretary.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the state conference of the NAACP get organized? That was during that early, early period.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, a man came into this state from North Carolina. He was a plumber by trade, and he organized the branch in Cheraw, which is up near the North Carolina line.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was his name?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Levi G. Byrd; still living, quite elderly. I think he and I are the only two survivors of the founding group. And he had the vision that the branches that were working autonomously in the state should be called together in a conference. And so that's the reason why it was called together, called together at Benedict, I think, in 1940 I believe

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it was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you were elected state secretary at that time?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I wasn't secretary then. The lady who was secretary of the Cheraw branch was secretary for the first year. And it was at her request, her urging that they give me the position, since in the first place whatever we could call the headquarters of the state conference was to be in Columbia. And then she felt that I had had the wider experience in NAACP activities; and then from the standpoint of newswriting and all that kind of thing she said that she would prefer to become the assistant secretary and that I should be secretary. And so then for the next fifteen years I was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't you ever become chairman of the organization?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh, I didn't want to be chairman of that organization. I didn't want to be secretary. I did it because I saw the need, and they asked me to. I have never wanted to be a front officer in anything, and I've never been. In fact, I'd rather not be prominently connected; I've always preferred to be a kind of behind-scene person.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why is that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
That's just my make-up. I'd rather get behind there and pull strings, like you play with these little puppets, then see the action take place. I'm not particular about being a front person; I never have wanted to be. Sometimes when you're on the outside you can be more effective than when you're on the inside; a lot of people don't realize that. For instance, what good would it be for me to be president of something (all I can do is to preside and break the tie) when I can get over there on the

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floor as a floor member and raise all the hell I want, you see if I don't like the way somebody's performing. But if I'm up here as president I can't do a thing but preside. And what would I want to be that for? That curbs me, curbs me; no. I can raise a whole lot of more hell from the floor.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You said when we talked the first time that the NAACP court cases during this early period were mapped out in your home. Can you tell me about these major cases?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I wouldn't say they were mapped out there. What we did on this end was handled there. You see, naturally a deal of that work sofar as laying the legal groundwork was done in the legal offices at NAACP. But there were some things that had to be done on the local scale. And then they had to come in maybe and contact people who had had experiences with these inequities and take their depositions and stuff like that. You know, there are a lot of things you don't learn in lawbooks. A lot of law is common sense, which a lot of lawyers don't have a lot of common sense. But a lot of law itself is just basic common sense. And so they had to come into the area where these things were happening and talk to a number of people. Of course, on this end the lawyers, Thurgood always stayed in my home. Thurgood Marshall always stayed in my home, as did the others as far as my home could accommodate. We had two extra bedrooms; some lawyers stayed there and the others stayed across the street from me. But they would have their meals and jam sessions around the table in my home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what were the major cases that the Association was pursuing?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, they pursued the Clarendon case against segregation

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in schools; that was a landmark case against school segregation. The 1954 decision grew out of that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Briggs vs. Elliott case?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. And then there was the Elmore case against the primary (Elmore vs. Baskin), and then the Brown vs. somebody. You see, after we got the ballot, got the right to vote in the primary under the [J. Waties] Waring decision, then they said that we could vote in the primary but we could not participate in party or club activities. And that's when Waring had to go back and pass out this decision, you know, where you could go in at the precinct level. Blacks could belong to precinct organizations and move on up to the state convention. Then there was a teachers' salary case that was done at that time—and some smaller cases, but those were the four major ones. Transportation case: there was a transportation case.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was that about? I don't remember that.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
But transportation. All this you hear raised about busing now, well white people had been fussing all the time—I mean when I say all the time, from the time they had buses they'd had it. And they used to come along… I've known times, I've heard my mother talk about how they'd come by and deliberately run you in mud puddles and splash the water and mud on her children, and she'd have to dry them off when they got to school, and spit at them out of the windows and all like that. But they were riding the buses and riding past the no-good black schools to get to the white schools that were better than the black schools. They didn't worry about that; they didn't worry about bussing then. All this mess they're talking about bussing is a bunch of junk. They just don't want them there. They're concerned about integration in the schools, but busing!

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a court case around the issue for blacks?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
A court case to make them provide buses for black children.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What case was that, do you know?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
That came out of Clarendon too. Yes, that came out of Clarendon, because there were buses. You see, some counties had a few buses. I remember in the Clarendon case, when they won that bus case coming out of Clarendon then they sent some buses down to Clarendon, some new buses. And they gave the old buses to the Negroes and took the new buses that were sent down as a result of this case for the whites. And the Negroes made them take them back; they were not going to have them. They were going to have the new buses that were sent down here. So that case, that bus case, as I remember it, had its initiation in Clarendon County.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your role exactly in all this?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I knew conditions in various parts of the state because I traveled all over the state at that time. And then in the case of the—well, with the primary case, there was no precedent on which to base the voting case in this state. And they had a slew of law students and lawyers trying to find something on which to hook the primary case, because, you see, in 1944 Olin D. Johnston (then the governor) called the special session of the legislature and fine-combed the code of laws to take out anything that they felt would be a point on which they could hang the primary case. And so in that case we just had to start from scratch. I can remember on one or two occasions when we went to federal court Thurgood would say, "Well, you come up here and sit right by this rail" (you know the rail that divides the lawyers from the observers). He'd say, "You sit right up at the rail, because there might be something we'll have to ask, something

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about somebody. We might need you right here." Well now, it wouldn't mean I was a lawyer; it'd mean there might be some point that they couldn't get that maybe a lawyer wouldn't think about, but it would have its effect. Sometimes a lawyer could ask a question which, even if the court says it must be withdrawn it's already had its effect, you see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, right.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Of course in the salary case I knew a lot of things because I had worked under the inequities of salary right here in the city schools. My sister was one of those salary cases, the one that sued the university. She was always ready to sue somebody. [Laughter]
There was something else I meant to tell you about those cases, but I've forgotten. It doesn't come to me now, but there was another important point I meant to give you about that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for this? It seems to me that this was a real increase in the willingness of the NAACP to take direct court action. The organization grew during this time right after World War II. How do you account for that take-off?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Of that what?
JACQUELYN HALL:
It seemed like a real take-off point for the organization.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I think the type of leadership we got into the conference at the beginning, a different type of leadership, a different type of president we had and the determination of people who had been begging these different… You know they had these little Democratic clubs, just like they have these private clubs and they don't let Negroes and Jews come in. Well, they had these little political clubs running the same ways. The Negroes had just gotten tired of begging and appealing and asking for a

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playground and their taking the thing under consideration, or asking for police protection, or asking for lights. And you go up there and sit down and beg and appeal to them old cats, and then they say, "Well, we'll take it under consideration." And maybe that's the last you hear of it. They just got tired; they just figured that they were tired of begging, tired of appealing, just tired, you know, of being pushed around.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened to the older leadership? Was it a take-over of the organization by different leaders at this point?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
There was what might have been called a volatile state leadership. So when the state organization was founded there was a small core of determined people, and those people in the various areas who were weak-kneed, they just had to fall by the wayside. As Truman said, "If you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the damned kitchen," see. So that's what some of them did: they got out of the kitchen. And we let it be known and said it broadly over all the state that we were not going to have anybody to jeopardize their positions or their lifestyles as they wanted to live it to join the movement, but we would try to annihilate them if they got in the way. All we'd say, in the words of the old spiritual, is "Just get out of the way and let the church roll on." And we handled some of them in a very cruel manner.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How is that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, we'd get up and talk about them, saying that they were people that were working against their own people, either were working against or were not interested; called theirnames, saying "There they are. They call themselves your leaders; and now we've got a chance to do something about this thing, where is he? What's your pastor doing? You

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feed him. If he can't work with you, starve him." I mean, we were cruel. We'd say, "What do you want? Here's a man telling you that Christ came—I mean we did all kinds of things—that you might have a more abundant life. You haven't had it. Now we're trying to work with you to get it, and he's telling you you can't meet in his church, or don't bother with that thing. What're you going to do with him? Are you going to feed him or are you going to starve him?" Just cruel. They got the message; it didn't take long for them to get it, didn't take long.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of role do you think the preachers have played in the movement, generally?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I think in some places they've done salient service. Around Columbia here they gave little or no assistance; we never got very much out of them here in early times. We still don't. Every now and then one of them would light up kind of like you see a lightning bug light up at night, and that's it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think they've been a really negative, conservative force for the most part?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I think they just don't give a damn. I don't think they're negative; I think they're just thinking about self. You see, the church as I know it (I'm talking about the black church here as I know it) has become mercenary. It's a racket; religion is a racket. They build churches, they have anniversaries, they have revivals this time of the year. They have revivals: one preacher'll go and preach there and get a big rake-off, he'll exchange with somebody else. And they become mercenaries, a kind of a religious mafia with no socio-community out-reach. Now I know they'll want to kill me for saying that, but that's just what I believe. And they know the way I think about

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it. The church could be a great leavening force; in fact, that's what it ought to be. But I don't see around here where it is. Now, I do know that in some cities (for instance in the Birmingham movement and in Montgomery) they showed it. But we had our state conference secretary's home fired in. Do you think they said anything? We had a woman bashed in the bust by a busdriver here, attacked on the bus, beat in the bosom. She could have gotten cancer for being where she was struck on the breast. Did any preacher tell the Negroes to walk like they did in Montgomery? No! No! So we've decided now there's no need to even bother with them. Just bypass them and go on and try to do what you're doing, because it's just not there. On the whole they've become a religious mafia, money's mercenary.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How long have you been alienated from the church in that way?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Years; it's been years. I don't mean by that that I don't believe in the philosophy as given us by Christ. And I believe in living by that. But now I don't believe in the Christ that's preached to us, and I don't listen to it. You know, a long time ago when a noted missionary went into India, I don't remember now who it was but I remember the saying that one of the prominent people in India said: "We will accept your Christ but not your Christianity." Now that's what I mean. So I have lost faith in the institutionalized black church. Now I can't say what the white church is doing, but I do believe that on the whole, from what I can hear… Now I know they got those movements, you know, like old Moon and that bunch, you know (that's another mafia), but on the whole I think that, from what I can gather from what comes over the radio and TV, there must be a much more rounded program of church activities and all like that in the general white church. Most of the black churches are shut all the week. They go

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there on Sunday and warm the chairs about two hours. And the outreach programs are no good. I say every church ought to have an outreach, it ought to have a social activities program, a social welfare, social consciousness program or something like that where all of the benefits that can come from … say from government benefits, and how people who are ill can get care. A lot of people don't know, people that are very ill and have very limited incomes right here in Columbia don't know that right down the street here is where they can get health nursing service, you know. A lot of the churches ought to know that, ought to know how to tell people how to get food stamp benefits and Social Security supplements. Now the churches ought to be doing that. But a lot of these preachers don't give a damn whether they've got money to buy milk for the baby on Monday morning, just so they get their assessments on Sunday and get their salary on Sunday. That's what I'm talking about. So I've just become thoroughly disgusted. I'm not disillusioned, I'm just disgusted. I can just see further than some people. And don't think I'm alone: the mass as a whole is seeing this thing. They're some people that think if they don't go to church every Sunday they'll go to hell. But I'm not even worrying about whether there's a hell or not; hell doesn't worry me, and heaven doesn't either. I say I've lived every day and tried to do what I can in my way of thinking and following the philosophy and the teachings of Christ to do unto others as you desire they do unto you, and help those who can't help themselves. And I let heaven and hell take care of themselves; that's my philosophy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You started working at the Victory Savings Bank in 1956, didn't you?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
When did your brother become president of the bank?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
1948.
JACQUELYN HALL:
1948?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was a physician?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did he come to be president of the bank?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, he was on the board, and the board pressed him into service as president. They needed a good president, a younger man, and they pressed him into service. And he was supposed to have kept it for a little while. He had a very large practice, which he finally laid aside—well, in fact, he took the bank over in '48 and they had a heavy embezzlement in 1952 that they had to work out of. So where he might have gone back to his full strength of practice, it took some years to move out of that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now what was his name?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Henry Dobbins Montieth.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Can you tell me a little bit about the bank? Has it always been a black-owned and run bank?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was it founded?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
1921.
JACQUELYN HALL:
1921?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of role has it played in the movement?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, it's a general commercial banking institution, you see.

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It has loans and general activities of any commercial bank. I think it's been a leavening influence in that very often, if it weren't here, there are certain advantages that might not have been available to blacks because they would have had nowhere to say, "Well, I'll go; maybe I can get Victory to help me."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, the control of white banks and white landlords over loans has been a real repressive force.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Has the Victory been open to making loans to blacks when they couldn't get them because of discriminations?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Many times, many times they have. And during the stress period following the Waring decision when the NAACP was asking us to push forward for integration in the schools, economic pressures were put on blacks in those areas. And from various parts of the country, the money was pooled into this bank to help save crops and lands, farms. Many foundations place money here. And many homes and farms were saved at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your position when you came to work here?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I came here as a public relations person, but I was told that I must learn the banking system from the bottom up. So I started just as what you might call a plain apprentice. And then I came to the point where I worked on into the banking system and became a head of the bookkeeping department. And then when the Hardan Street branch was built in 1962, I was sent out here as one of the tellers, and eventually became manager. After about a year, perhaps a year and a half, I was made head of the bookkeeping department. And then in '62, I became connected with this set-up. And

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I've been here … well, there was a head teller that was here. He's now at another branch. So then I became a combination of swing person and teller. I would be here on heavy days like payday weekends or something like that, and then if I was needed partially in the bookkeeping department or for news releases or something like that. I was a swing person. Then later he was moved out there, and I was given full charge of this branch.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Has there been any pressure on you in your job because of your civil rights activities?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no. Not any.
JACQUELYN HALL:
No sense of your activities bringing bad publicity to the bank?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I never have. Not from stockholders or directors. In fact, being a black bank and with those activities, you popularize yourself in the black community.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After the '54 decision came down, the Orangeburg and Elloree parents petitioned the school board to try to integrate the schools, and economic pressure was brought on them, and a boycott was organized, and so on. Were you involved in that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I organized the boycott.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You organized the boycott?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me how that all came about.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I'll have to show you some literature on that. I'm too tired to tell you about it now. But anyway, we did organize … we didn't call it a boycott. You know, there's a law against boycotting in

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the state. We called it a restricted buying campaign. But then finally after the White Citizens' Council were organizing that area for the purpose of putting an economic squeeze on the Negroes and publicly announced it and boasted that they were going to do it. Then we said, if they can put on a squeeze, we can put on a boycott. So then we just used the boycott term openly. And more than that, we asked the people who were trading in Orangeburg as far as possible to buy as little as possible, and as far as possible to go outside of the Orangeburg trading area. This was as it came up toward Christmas when the squeeze was on. It came up during the latter part of the year, as I remember. We asked the people to go either to Augusta, or Charleston, or Columbia and do their shopping, go in car pools, and like that.
We did that. That was one thing we did. I ran across the other day the list that we had, the boycott list. I remember another thing we did was to list articles that we wanted the people not to buy. I mimeographed them on my machine, and we cut them in little strips about like this, and we stuck them under all the windshields at the big football games down at Orangeburg. Then too, we knew that people had to trade somewhere. So then we boycotted certain products. For instance, we'd say … well, you see, the person who had the Coca Cola franchise in Orangeburg refused to sell Coca Cola to blacks or to service the Coca Cola vending machines in black businesses. So then we boycotted Coca Cola. The national representative, black representative of Coca Cola, Moss Kendrick, was sent in here to try to placate us. And it was about that time—you

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were too young to remember—but Coca Cola just outshone Pepsi Cola everywhere.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh yes, yes.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
But about that time, we got a picture in Jet magazine of a Coca Cola machine, brand-new vending machine, sitting unused in an outstanding Exxon station … it was not Exxon, Standard Oil station in Orangeburg, not being able to make any money on it because this franchise wouldn't sell to them. So that got all over the country, and Negroes everywhere started to boycott Coca Cola. It was at that time that Pepsi Cola really caught a foothold and moved out from that point. I don't think that it's nationally recognized, but I know that it did.
And then we boycotted certain products. For instance, say for instance, if they had National Biscuit Peanut Wafers and Tom's Peanut Wafers, we would just take one, you know? And then tell them to leave the other on the shelf. Or if it was a certain type of bread, we would say, buy this bread and not that bread. And maybe we'd take the type of bread that was sold principally in some of the main grocery stores because we knew people had to buy bread. We knew they had to have milk. So the man in Orangeburg who had the Coca Cola franchise had the franchise for Sunbeam bread. He also had the franchise for Paradise ice cream. So we boycotted those three things. We knew people wanted ice cream, they wanted bread, they needed milk for their children, so we just made them on the list to boycott. So it was a lot of strategic action.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How effective was the boycott?

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MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Most effective, child. We closed one big apparel store down there. Those people were glad through that area when that thing let up, when they found out they couldn't just take those people's property and couldn't just bring them to their knees. A lot of those colored people that were pressured had been … if you were reared on a farm, you know about the lien thing where you buy things altogether, and your crop comes in, and you pay. And there wasn't anything wrong with their credit record, but they just cut 'em off—dap! You don't get fertilizer, you don't get seeds, you know, that type of thing. But we sent in fertilizer; we fixed it so we could get seed. After about two years of that, the banks and the merchants down there were glad to come back in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How was it settled finally?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It was settled by them just telling one or two, why, everything's all right. You know, well, we got back in, kind of like you and your husband have a fuss. And every now and then, he'll say, "Well baby, I didn't mean it." You say, "You did mean it." And after a while, he says, "Well, I'm not going to tell you anything else. You can keep on loving me if you want," or something like that. They just kind of made love and got back together, you know.
I saw a truck farmer come in … he raised butter beans and snap beans, I remember that, down in the Elloree area. I saw that man come in one afternoon and pay $4,000 truck farm money to Victory bank at one time. Well now, you know, if many of them pull that out, pulled that kind of trade out of one of those little white banks down there, they felt it, you see? Now he was just one. I saw that. And he was proud as he could

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be 'cause in the spring when he came in, he thought he was going to lose his farm. Had good land—plenty of them around here have rich, rolling land. And I guess a lot of those fellows thought, well, we'll bring them to their knees and they'll lose their land. But none of them lost their properties.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who worked with you to organized that boycott?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
The director of NAACP, executive director. You see, I was still state secretary of NAACP.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
We were talking about the Orangeburg boycott and the squeeze and the black reaction in '66 yesterday, and you said that it ended in a kind

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of unspoken truce.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I didn't say… Well, it ended in a truce sofar as maybe… No, it wasn't a truce, because in a truce you come together and make an agreement. It just ground down.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the results? What did it accomplish?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, the one thing about it, it prevented a widespread organization of Citizens' Councils. We just about stopped them in their tracks. The hotbed of them was Orangeburg, and it's still in that area, but they're not a telling force. I will send you a copy of the statement we issued in '56: that was the Citizens' Committee, the Richland County Citizens' Committee issued in '56 which we sent widely over the state. And as I told you the other day, we said that we would take action against—when I say take action against, we would try to pull trade from any business where we found some official of the Citizens' Council was connected. And of course the almighty dollar is the almighty God of the power structure, so that's where you draw blood. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you working mainly in your capacity as secretary of the NAACP, or through the Richland County Citizens' Committee?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Mainly through NAACP. But now I had a clash, and it was also in the mind of the man who was the executive director at that time. NAACP through the national office had asked us to get these petitions signed for school desegregation. Then when the power structure stepped down on the necks of the signers and on Negroes generally in those areas, denying them of certain opportunities and privileges and conveniences, any kindnesses, for instance, like liens and lending money on short term and all like that, then we entered into a situation where we actually

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needed some relief for these people. So about that time the church of DeLaine, J.A. DeLaine who had, you know, left the state (he was in exile from this day until his death), his church was burned in Lake City. In fact, because he was one of them initiating the spearhead movement of the school segregation, the move against segregation he became the target in the area around Lake City, which has always been a volatile spot. And they rode by his house, shot into his house, indignified him in several ways. So one night they came by his house riding up and down and firing, and he fired back and hit one of the cars. And so they took out warrants for him and it became dangerous for him. He left town and went to New York and stayed for years, and then eventually got as far back towards South Carolina as North Carolina, where he died.
And Simeon Booker of Jet and another fellow (I've forgotten the second fellow, another fellow from Jet or Ebony, I don't know which—they're all in the same company) and our executive director Albert Redd (R-e-d-d) and Mr. L.A. Blackman (who was NAACP president in Elloree where this fight was also hot—that's in Orangeburg County—and where the Klan threatened him and ordered him out of town, but he never left), Mr. Blackman and I don't remember who else, but at least five men went into the area. They disguised themselves in poor farming area attire and went into the area after DeLaine's church was burned to investigate, and happened to get out just in time to protect their lives from attack. They didn't finally end until about sunset; it was a winter evening. So they came back to Columbia and they were staying at the motel that I was running at that time. And we were sitting around talking when Simeon Booker said, "I just wish there was something we could do about this thing, how we could help these people better being pressured this way."

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And then he said, "Maybe we could put a little box in Jet, just a little enclosure and tell people to send assistance into this area." He said, "Now, you would have to have a place if goods come in to store them until you could get them distributed." I said, "Well, I have a vacant store, a good-sized place that we could use, and my brother has a vacant space in one of his buildings. And I believe the space would not be a problem." So he put this little box in Jet magazine, and in the course of a week or ten days money, canned foods by the ton and clothing started coming in. At the same time Adam Clayton Powell saw this little thing in Jet, and he invited me up to talk at Abyssinian Church. And his church sent scads of relief materials.
One Sunday I had a telephone call. My mother and I had been to some kind of thing, and we were sitting eating dinner that one Sunday once I had gotten home. And I went to the phone; it was Roy Wilkins. Wilkins said he heard of this program we had down here, that money was being sent in and other parts of this program that we had, and that "NAACP was not a relief organization." Those were his words: "NAACP is not a relief organization, and we just won't have it. And any money that you have, you send it back, every penny of it, to whoever sent it."
BOB HALL:
How was it named in the box? Was it NAACP?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No. It just asked for relief for NAACP pressured people, you see. No, it didn't go out under an appeal for NAACP.
BOB HALL:
How did people make their checks out, though, when they sent money?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We asked them to send them to some kind of relief fund; I've forgotten what we had down, because, you see, we didn't intend for

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them to go into NAACP general funds. So we worked on that technicality for tax purposes. So this was just a general relief fund. I mean, these people were in trying circumstances. Many of them couldn't get milk for their children, you know. Some of the places, particularly in the Orangeburg area, stopped deliveries of milk—like they'd drop them by the door, on the porch. So I said, "Now Roy, I am not going to send back a damned cent to anybody." I said, "These people are under pressure. You all asked us to get these petitions signed, and that's what we're doing. We have an obligation to these people." I said, "Now, you all sit up there and drink all the Bloody Marys and eat all your big sirloin steaks and drink your scotch and milk, but we are down here under the pressure. And we've got the load on us, and we're going to handle it." So I raised so much hell on the telephone, I got back in the dining room and my mother said, "What in the world was wrong with you? Who was that talking to you?" And I told her it was Roy. Well, my mother was just a firey as she could be, and she told me, "Well, I don't blame you." She said, "Don't you do it. I don't blame you. He's sitting up there out of the fire. Let him stay up there and stew in his own juice."
So we went on with that program. And it was not well thought of even by Hinton, who was president of this conference here. He said that we shouldn't do this program. But I just took it on myself. And we had, even at that time, to maneuver the restrictive buying campaign in a way that it appeared that it wasn't directly NAACP, because NAACP was in a very dangerous spot at that time—I say dangerous to the effect that they said they weren't chartered in the state. And they once under Governor James Byrnes's administration threatened to put a $7200. a day fine on the organization.

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I don't remember now how they got out from under that pressure. But anyway, this is the same Christmas that I'm telling you about that we got the people to go to different places. And in Elloree, where L.A. Blackman was chairman of NAACP, they had had a Christmas program for children every year—I mean all children—just had it out in some city square, I guess. I never was there. But Mr. Blackman called me one morning terribly upset. He said, "You know, they've been having this Christmas program every year, and we were told this week that there's not going to be any Santa Claus for the Negroes this year." That's what the folks down there told him: "There ain't going to be no Santa Claus for the niggers." I said, "Well, Mr. Blackman, we'll have to work on that. We can't have our children being indignified that way." I said, "We'll just have to work out of it." We had some of those relief funds then that I was telling you about. And so I called in Mr. Redd and told him to go to the market and get some oranges and apples—small ones, I said, but nice ones (they were small so we could get as many as possible with the money). And Mr. Blackman told me in the telephone conversation that he did have two hundred pounds of hard candy.
One of the churches up North sent this two hundred pounds of hard candy. So, we got the oranges and the apples and some tangerines, and I told him to go down by a liquor store we had and get some two pound bags. I told Blackman to call back, and I told him to get three or four women and have them prepared so that when Mr. Redd got there with these materials they could just bag this stuff. And so the children had their party. So Mr. Blackman told me that one of the Negro mothers was working in a white home. And after school her little boy would go by where his mother was

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to stay until she got off. So when he went by that day he had his Christmas bag, and she said the little white boy ran to his mother and said, "Momma, the colored people had a better Christmas than we had." [Laughter] But now that's just how low-down this thing was. But Mr. Hinton called me and told me he was displeased about it; it shouldn't be done, that NAACP money wasn't to be … handled that way, spent that way. Now he was president of the state conference now, and he demanded something—I've forgotten what (it's been some years now). But anyway, I said, "Mr. Hinton, your children are going to have a nice Christmas, aren't they?" He said, "That's beside the point."
Now I could go on and tell you other experiences I've had with NAACP that have alienated me, especially since the program has ground down—it's milk and water now from the national office down. I pay my member-ship every year, as I told you the other day, under protest. And I send them a little note: "I'm paying this under protest, but I want my member-ship in because when I get ready to raise hell, I don't want to raise it free of charge", see.
BOB HALL:
What were their explanations to you about why NAACP couldn't be involved in that kind of program? How did they see their position?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, in the first place, they weren't a relief program. They didn't have a relief department in the set-up. "It wasn't a relief program": now those were his words. Now what he meant by that I don't know.
BOB HALL:
Did it involve how they raised money themselves, or what kind of friction it would stir up, or who their

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benefactors were?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know. I don't know that. I didn't go into it. I thought only of the feelings of the children.
[interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the NAACP's strategy during this time after the Supreme Court decision came down in '54, before the sit-ins started? What was the state association trying to do? What was their focus?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, with the exception of what Mr. Redd and I tried to do there was nothing. For some reason that we have never known the state president, who had been quite a fighter up until about 1956, quieted down. We've never known why he did. We have our ideas, but we've never known. It seems like some kind of pressure was put on him from some element in the power structure that caused him to … not push the program as he had.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now was he a minister?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of pressure would he be vulnerable to? Economic?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well now, I don't know. Well, he wasn't a minister that had a church. He called himself a minister but he didn't have a church. He worked with the Pilgrim Life Insurance Company. But we have never known why he acted as he did, because he had been a great fighter. The only thing we could do was to surmise. It was reported to us that one of his sons who was working in some part of the government between schooltime or

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something like that, between school terms or something, had had some problem in Washington. And we believe that the son was not prosecuted because a deal was made that the activities of the organization grind down. But now there's no way in the world to prove that. Whatever it was, he died with it on his bosom. But for sometime [unknown], as I remember, he did not call the executive committee meetings, which ordinarily at that time, as I remember, were called at least once every quarter. He refused to call them. We didn't have a state conference or annual meeting for a year or two.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And this was what, '55 to '57?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Roughly so; I'd have to look back in the files to say that. But as quickly as he could, not only did he get out of the presidency, but he worked some sort of plan so that I would get out of the secretaryship. It was reported to me by one of the members from South Carolina who were in a national annual meeting being held that year, I think either in Albany or Rochester, that Mr. Hinton said that he was going to get rid of me as secretary. And the question was asked, "Well, how can you do that, with the program she's doing? The people are not going to stand for it. How can you do it?" And his reply, as reported to me, was that, "You will see that I will."
So this man who came and brought me the message was Mr. L. G. Byrd, who I told you the other day was probably along with myself the oldest two living members of the founders of the state conference of the NAACP. So he said, when he got back to South Carolina he came immediately to my home and told me he thought that I should resign, after what he had heard at the

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annual meeting. I said, "Well, I'm just not going to resign." I said, "I'm just going to let him put me out." So I went to the next annual meeting—and I think that they thought that I wasn't coming, because I was working at the bank at that time, and maybe they thought that I couldn't get off. But I went. No mention was made of my being there. The Sunday afternoon when they had the big annual address by the guest speaker I was sitting in the auditorium at Friendship College, where the meeting was being held that year (that was in Rock Hill, South Carolina), didn't even mention that I was in the audience.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The other officers were up on the stage or up in front?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well see, Hinton had gotten out a new slate of officers, and I don't remember whether they were on the stage or not. But anyway, I don't think he even read who the officers were; he just kind of skidded by it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
If he had elected the officers of the state conference, how were they chosen?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
By a nominating committee that he named, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Not by vote of the membership?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Very likely. Well, you know, they have all kinds of ways of doing things like that. They'll have the nominating committee brought in when the crowd is tired. You've been in meetings when they tire people out; then everybody wants to come in there and give a resolution or a motion and put it through quickly or something like that. In fact, in answer to your question, he told the people at that meeting that I wanted to leave the position, you see. And so there was no question to them, because he gave them that impression. But when I got back to Columbia and knew by that time he'd gotten back, I called him and told him he had lied to the

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people. I said, "You won't get off with it. I'm going to write to every branch and tell them." And I told him something else, which must not be repeated here.
But anyway, from that day on I never was in a meeting with Hinton anywhere until they had some kind of meeting in Manning, where they were honoring the people who had been with NAACP twenty-five or more years, or in the civil rights fight twenty-five or more years, or something like that. And I was there on the rostrum with him that day. But we never held a conversation after that; I lost all respect and regard for him, and never bothered with him anymore.
And for some years past that he was, as old folks say, "pulling kiver" with the local power structure. They praised him and got him on various kinds of committees, just like they do what we call their "good niggers." Oh, the city council or something or other, the Chamber of Commerce gave this big dinner for him, a testimonial. They invited me to it, and I wrote that I could not come because I didn't respect the position that Hinton was now holding, and being as I am I couldn't take part in it. I have copies of those letters.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you write to the local branches?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, I did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And who took your place as secretary?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
A fellow named I. DeQuincey Newman.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the upshot of it? Were you out of office from then on, or were you reinstated at some point?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I was out of office from then on. I didn't try to be reinstated because in that type of atmosphere I couldn't work. I'm not the

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type of person that can work in a servile atmosphere. And I was in position then to do a lot of things that I couldn't have done if I'd been an official of the NAACP. I could enter more fully into political action—well, I won't say political action, but into partisan political action. And then I could fight some of the shortcomings that I saw forthcoming in NAACP. The man who was working for them, Mr. Redd, became disillusioned and left the position. He went out. He was a graduate minister in social action or something like that, and he went to a position out on the west coast, or out in the West—I think he's in Denver.
After that I never was told, I never was called in; with all the experience I had, fifteen years' experience and knowing the NAACP program and working in what were the most noted federal cases and all in the history of the NAACP, I never was asked in as a consultant or told about the meetings. I think I was put on a program once, where there was to be a panel of Hinton, myself and John McCray (another man that hasn't come into the discussion that we had). And I told them that I refused to be in the same session with those two people, that either I would appear individually somewhere on the program or I wouldn't be on it. So they put me on a separate section of the program.
JACQUELYN HALL:
McCray was involved in the early period too,
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what happened to him?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
He's out at Talladega in Alabama.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But how did you become alienated from him? Was he a close ally of Hinson?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I became alienated in another way there with some of his

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actions with the political people here. He eventually bowed the knee to Baal too, as the Bible says. But the effort that he put on with the Progressive Democratic party was very effective and it was commendable: I really credit him for that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't mean the Progressive party in '48?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
The Progressive Democratic party in South Carolina. He organized that because they didn't want us to participate in the National Democratic convention. That's between the cases of Elmore vs. Baskin and somebody else vs. Brown. But anyway, inbetween that they didn't want us to participate in party functions, as I told you the other day. And that meant you couldn't get into the national convention as a delegate. So that was organized to try to make a way into the national Democratic convention.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Very much like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Something like that, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when did this happen, that you went out of NAACP?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It must have been '57, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And since then you have never worked closely with the state association?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No. I saw that I could do a lot more otherwise.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things were you involved in then, in those years after you got out of the Association?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, my activities have been altogether with the Richland County Citizens' Committee.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me about the organization of that.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't feel like talking about all that. I'll send you some material on it. But anyway, I will tell you how it had its beginning.

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When all of this commotion was going on about in 1944, I guess it was, when we were getting ready to make the move through the federal courts for the ballot that was another period of high feeling against NAACP. That preceeded the school integration movement. And there were a number of people who were sympathetic with the moves of NAACP and wanted to cooperate, but they knew that if their names were known their positions in schools and other jobs would be jeopardized. So the plan was hit upon to set up a parallel organization for NAACP, which we called the South Carolina Citizens' Committee. It was organized here in May of 1944. And going out in that meeting was a resolution to organize county units. Richland County organized its citizens' committee, which still lives as a citizens' committee and a direct offshoot of the old South Carolina Citizens' Committee. And in practically every county you go to in the state you will find some kind of kindred organization. It may not be called a citizens' committee; it might be called a Concerned Citizens or something. But anyway, the idea is there. But we have maintained the old Citizens' Committee objectives; we were chartered by the state in '56. And although we are called the Richland County Citizens' Committee, our files will show that we have exerted state influence, I think for two reasons: one was that I personally knew from my experience with NAACP how to reach various areas of the state, and knew so many people in the state from my experience even in TB work. I guess at one time I have known more black people in South Carolina than any other one woman that wasn't in politics, so I was able to reach them. And I had reached them in other efforts, and they would work with me, so that we were able to—although we called ourselves the Richland Citizens' Committee, we were influential in many state movements and

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elections and all like that, as our files will show: the integration of the state hospital here, the state mental institution. In the sit-ins of the sixties we worked into that. In fact, we have been in every forward movement in the state. We don't have it on the air now, but we ran a program for about seven years on the Columbia so-called black radio station here. That copy I gave you a while ago is one of them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had a radio program?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, for about seven years: a paid program. We never would accept public relations time, because we didn't want any kind of squeeze put on us. So we got on a continuing contract, paid.
We wanted to be in a position that we could say anything we wanted to short of trespassing on FCC regulations.
So that gives you a bird's eye view of the Citizens' Committee. And I think if you look at that copy I gave you you'll see a part of our objective on the bottom of that sheet—well maybe so, I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The sit-ins, in fact, started in Rock Hill. Weren't those the first sit-ins, in 1960?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I think in South Carolina they were.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know that that strategy was about to be implemented there? Were you involved in that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I wasn't involved in that. We didn't become involved until it moved into Columbia—which didn't take it long to move in here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of relationship did the Citizens' Committee have with the students that were leading sit-ins?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We counseled with them. A number of our members walked with them as they went into these efforts. Then we raised funds or even gave

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funds for bonds, and attended meetings (you know, the pep meetings they would have). We'd take part in that. Just general cooperation.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the NAACP respond at the beginning of the sit-in movement? Did they support the students, or did they hold back? Was Hinton still…? When did Hinton go out?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't remember, but he must have gone out in about 1960, I guess. I don't remember.
We used to have huge mass meetings here about the sit-ins; NAACP inspired those, along with Citizens' Committee. Sometimes the local branch of NAACP—very seldom, but sometimes the Citizens' Committee would work up a community meeting, as a kind of coordination meeting where we would ask other groups to be co-sponsors. We always gave the NAACP invitations to do that, whether they did or not. But after I went out as secretary and this new gentleman I DeQuincey Newman was in, sometimes they didn't seem interested in any movement unless they started it. That's one of the characteristics of NAACP: if they can't spearhead a movement they just don't like to bother with it much, because they want the credit for everything that's done. I talked to Roy Wilkins after the—there's something there that I can't quite perhaps explain to you, but it would be found, I'm almost sure, in the Waring papers—that after the—first stage in the Clarendon case some other phase of that case was to be brought, some type of appeal or something or another step in that case. And the NAACP dragged its feet a long time during that period. Thurgood Marshall was apparently fighting hard to get on the federal court; it seems like he became obsessed with getting on the federal court. Now this was Waring's opinion, as I understood it on one occasion when I was visiting them. So he was so

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anxious to get on federal court that the NAACP didn't push this federal case as it should for finishing off the Clarendon picture. So I was in New York. If the situation is not exceptional I always go into Newark airport; I don't like to go into those big airports. So I was down at the Newark airport awaiting my plane, and I called Roy and told him that—this is the last conversation I ever had with Roy Wilkins… I told him, "Roy, you know and I know that we were taught in school that nature abhors a vacuum." I said, "Now you all have just about abandoned the people that were pressured in the Clarendon case, and people are losing faith in NAACP in South Carolina. Now if you don't watch out something is going to move in to fill this vacuum that you are creating, because if it can be felt in South Carolina I'm sure it's felt other places." I didn't get much of an answer out of him; we did talk for a good little while. And I begged him to kind of, you know, whip up the feeling again in connection with the Clarendon case, because everybody's attention was focused on Clarendon at that time. It didn't do any good; I know it didn't, because Roy doesn't listen to anybody. He's a man unto himself.
So then the next thing we heard was the name of Martin Luther King. That was about 1960; I imagine that was 1959 or '60 I called Roy. But I do know that just after King was first heard of in Montgomery he was invited to Columbia by, I think, Mr. I.S. Leevy, a businessman here who worked early in the effort like I did to try to get the two party system, as I explained to you the other day. And Martin Luther King came through here and spoke in Columbia. He was just barely known at that time, but Mr. Leevyhad heard of him and he said, "I want that man to come to Columbia." And he invited him here and, I think, paid all his expenses. And he stopped up at the motel that I owned.

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The next thing we heard was the Martin Luther King movement. Now, you know NAACP never properly regarded and respected and loved Martin Luther King. They would get in the marches sometimes and go to the things he had, but they'd wait 'til everybody got stuck with the hot prods and dogs biting them and beat over the head and knocked in the what-you-call-them and all like that. Then they'd come and march in in the victory march, you see: that's the picture I have of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I've wondered why. In the other Deep South states SOLC just moved into that vacuum.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
They did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't it happen in South Carolina as much?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, as I told you the other day, this state is different. I told you the other day this state is very different—not the power structure. The power structure has a velvet-covered nailed fist, and I think they felt, you see… They did have the primary case in Texas, but it never got the hot fight that we had. You see, this thing got so hot here that Judge Waring told the Democratic Party on one occasion that he was going to jail them if they trespassed on his decision concerning participation in the party functions. His words were that he'd "put them in jail." And the power structure knew that we would move out towards the federal courts. We never had anybody whipped and shot at in this state except they shot in Hinton's house out here; they shot at his home. They shot in my motel. But now this widespread… I think when my sister was … running the case against Carolina they threw a bomb in my brother's yard. She said they used to put rotten eggs and body wastes in her mailbox. But they didn't start up the road to our home out in the country because they knew she had that .38 up there,

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and she didn't mind if… She'd shoot it off every now and then anyway. I asked her one day, I said, "Why do you…?" She said, "I shoot my. 38 off. I go up on the sleeping porch upstairs and shoot it off every now and then," she said. "And when I shoot it off, you can hear it echoing all around through the woods, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow." I said, "Rebecca, why do you do that?" "I want them to know I'm still up on this hill." They didn't start up. They didn't put one track through the field to start up to the house.
But now this wholesale nightriding and all that mess, we didn't have it in South Carolina. Now the stuff is right down, it's right there under the surface a little bit, but they knew we would go to court. I remember sending out a directive to our branches when we first got to register. And some of them were talking about how they weren't going to do this and weren't going to do that on these little registration committees. I wrote this thing out, and then I put a P.S. on there and said, "Be sure you go to register. Take two people with you so that you will be prepared to make an affadavit"—and some other big-talking stuff I put on there. And then I sent a copy to each of the counties where the registration would take place, to the registration boards. And they knew we were ready to move, see. We were using Hitler's old fear technique too. We learned how to use that: you know, just get your bluff in first. A lot of it was bluff, but it worked. It's just like when a pack of them go to march on a home or something or other. If you shoot one of them they all run like a pack of dogs. They shot in our home in Eldorado, (Ark.) and my Daddy hit one of them and that was the end of that, see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't black activists turn to SCLC after the NAACP became

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so … after their momentum died down and they were offering less militant leadership?
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, you see, NAACP was still carrying on a type of program in South Carolina under I. DeQuincey Newman. It was carrying on a type of program, but it was one of these programs that maybe you've heard about where you just every now and then send out a news release—it was what I call a headline program, you know, getting articles and headlines from the papers. And it kept the people kind of bamboozled. They thought the NAACP was still doing something. And then the ministerial leadership of the state never really as a whole accepted King. I remember about four years ago they wanted Abernathy to come here to the South Carolina State Baptist Convention. Some of them said they wanted him, but Abernathy told them that they were going to send him an invitation before he came. And we couldn't find out when Abernathy was coming. People would call here at the bank, "When is Reverend Abernathy going to speak? Somebody said it was ten o'clock, somebody said it was eleven o'clock, somebody else said it was two o'clock." And one of our members who is still working with the company here delivering auto parts called here, and then he said, "Well, I'm going down there and run by every now and then on my trips and see if I can find out." Well, eventually we found out that this man was going to speak about two o'clock. A man was head teller here then, and I asked him if I could get off and go down there. And Abernathy did come. But the leaders in the convention weren't so sure they wanted Abernathy here, because I don't remember that they ever asked King here. The only time that I remember King was brought here he was brought by Leevy, as I told you a while ago. But Abernathy

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did come. And the atmosphere in the church was peculiar; they looked like they didn't know whether… You see, in this state most of our church leaders are under the influence of the Democratic party, and many of them have sold votes and "pulled kivers" as the old folks say with the Democratic leaders. And they didn't quite know whether Abernathy was going to say the things that ought to be said, or something like that, you know. But anyway Abernathy preached a sermon on the Good Samaritan. I've never heard a better sermon in my life. And when Abernathy got through the church went wild. It was most effective. And even the preacher said they never heard a man preach like that. So at the close … he didn't stay around long. He evidently had the idea that I've had in many instances: the best thing to do is to get out of here on a high point. He moved on out. As I remember they had invited him to come over to speak to the students at Benedict, and he went on over there. But he didn't stay around that church. I don't mean by that that he … felt he would be bodily harmed, but he knew that the leadership in that convention wasn't particular about him being there. He knew that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, SCLC did come into the Charleston Hospital strike.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But I believe that was the only big campaign that they staged in the state.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was talking to a journalist about the South Carolina movement, who said that, in talking about the pecularity of Columbia being that there's never been a coherent black movement here, that there've been real strongly warring factions all along. Do you think that that's true?

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MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Warring in Columbia?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't think so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That the movement's been splintered always.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't they're warring factions. I think maybe some people have become disgusted with some of the leaders that have been appointed by the power structure, and the power structure has a way of knowing who the Negro leaders ought to be. And they throw them into those positions politically and educationally, and the people just refuse, or they've made up their minds they're not going to follow the … [interruption] young ministers that were here couldn't push it off. And then there came in a young minister who is still here that worked in the King movement and worked even with Jesse Jackson. He tried to push off something here about two years ago. He told me he had twenty-one ministers backing him. I said, "Son, you have twenty-one names on your list." I said, "When you get ready to push this thing, if you look back and see one you'll be glad." He said, "You're always fighting the ministers." I said, "No, I don't fight them. I just know they ain't worth a damn when it comes to what you're talking about." And he sure found out: only one minister stayed with him to the end, and some of them never came to one of the meetings. And he was working when we were getting our single member district plan through. No, you don't get them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was this fellow, this young minister?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
His name was William Henderson. This town is peculiar, but I can't say they're warring factions. They're not that; they're just do-nothing factions. One of the reasons, I think, is this town has grown

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very fast—big factories coming in and all like that. The town is growing so fast that it's hard to develop a cohesiveness. There are towns like that, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would you characterize the different groupings, the different factions?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't say they're factions.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You wouldn't call…?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I wouldn't call them factions. They're not that type of thing; they're not factions. They're either "do" or "don't do," but there's no such thing as warring factions. Now I know that report has been put out. I know a man came here once to interview me, from I think they called it the Tampa Bulletin (I think there's some paper down there by that name), and he told me that the mayor then told him that there were warring factions here, and that I was a person that had some kind of bad influence. I mean, I guess he was talking about my supposed Communist influence or something like that. But he said that that's the reason—the same thing you're telling me. I know that was told to a man from the Tampa Bulletin. But it isn't that. It's just that I think the town has just grown so fast it hasn't had time to catch hands.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who have your main allies been that have been consistent over the years, have worked with you and been out front in all the different…?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, mostly … there's nobody. There might be … I can't say that consistently we've had the cooperation (with whatever movement we say we have here), or constant cooperation of one minister. Now when you request cooperation, they bless you in what you're trying to do, and they think it's a good thing, and you may be able if you're

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working up a program to get them to come and give the benediction and read scripture, kind of something like that. But there are not any here, and very few in the state, that if you're having a definitely civil liberties program that you… You can get them to come, but then the people will say, "He's not in the fight. We haven't seen him saying anything or doing anything," you know. So we have stopped, the Citizens' Committee has stopped having annual programs, because we've just about used up everybody that we could invite in, and we don't have the money to invite somebody from the outside to speak, because it takes too much money. These speakers want a lot of travel money and … whatever you call those things, honorariums, you know, and our organization isn't able, because we don't have paid membership. And unless we have special efforts to bring somebody in we just don't have it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, if not the ministers, then who have been the backbone of the movement in South Carolina, or the leadership?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
The leadership, whatever leadership there has been, has been largely through whatever type of leadership that NAACP has given. But it's kept itself in the limelight somewhat by what they call semi-annual conferences, or mini conferences we call it, and the annual conference. But in such meetings they have a very poor attendance, and the impact on the state itself is poor because all of the people in the high echelons of the political set-up know that NAACP hasn't any bite in it anymore. But then they get good coverage; they get on TV and make these statements, and they get good coverage. The press is good to them. So then the masses of people don't know, they don't know how to make the analysis I'm making this morning, you see.

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BOB HALL:
But the movement in South Carolina didn't produce leaders from the grass roots?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, not of state-wide impact.
BOB HALL:
Then it had been throughout the period an NAACP, primarily professional middle-class leadership?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Not primarily. Some branches produced strong spirits, few of whom generated state-wide public notice.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about people like Victoria DeLee?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Victoria DeLee made a good fight. I don't know; you know, we think they framed her son down there in the trouble that they have had there where they claimed he did something or other, that the car was out of order so those children were killed. Then her daughter ran for magistrate down there, and I think she won. But they had quieted her; she has gotten quiet. I don't know. I haven't been down to see her and I don't want to talk on the telephone to her. It's my intention to go down and see her one Sunday or something like that.
DeLee spoke in one of our meetings, one of our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials, and was most effective. And she did a very good fight down there. But in some way she appears to have been neutralized. Now we have one or two people in there, well, I'll say maybe three blacks in the legislature that are pretty good fighters.
So many of the youngsters have become disillusioned with NAACP; they're not developing a new crop.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What individuals have worked with you most closely?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, the main individuals—and that's about scarce as hen's teeth… Sometimes it's a case, you just get in a situation where if

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you don't carry the ball yourself it's hard to carry. But, now our membership is a very, very poor, hard-working people. They don't have the money to give to a movement, but they're always thoroughly cooperative. And it is known whenever we get ready for a committee action or something like that, I mean they're a fearless group. They've been inspired to be fearless. But now, there are a number of people who say, "Oh, I like what the Citizens' Committee is doing; it's doing a wonderful work," and they come in with problems, various problems that should be actually carried to the NAACP officers. But they'll tell you… For instance, we had a man killed by a highway patrolman. And I was called one night about eleven thirty saying, "Come out here. Some highway patrolman has killed a man by the name of Hall." And about ten minutes after that I got a call from a man, and he said about the same thing: "We need somebody to come out." So I said, "Well, did you call Reverend Bowman?"—Reverend Bowman at that time was president of NAACP. He said, "I called him, and he told me to call Ike Williams, who was NAACP state executive director." I don't know which called first. But he said, "I called them, but they ain't going to do nothing, and that's the reason I'm calling you all at the Citizens' Committee." So I said, "Well, we'll try to get you some assistance out there." So then I called Tom Broadwater (he's an attorney here) and told him. He said, "Well, I tell you, I had come in and kind of pulled off, and I've just got on trunks." I said, "Well, get something on (trunks or anything), and get on out there to Newcastle and do whatever you can." So he did. But that gives you an example that they call us atuomatically first where any problem is.
Now we are at a great disadvantage because we do not have legal aid—

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I mean when I say paid legal aid like NAACP has. We have legal aid set-ups in town, but they're OEO. But we do not have attorneys as NAACP has, where they can move in with legal action, and we do not have the money that can be made available to NAACP through their memberships. But we are able to direct people to sources. Our powers of referral and our knowledge of referrals are good. And then there are certain people that do work closely in the political movement that will say, "If there's any assistance that I can give at any time for you or your people just let me know." And I have at least two—well, three white attorneys here that our organization has seen the value of supporting in campaigns that we can call for either advice or assistance. At least we had one case of a young child that a white mother and her children claimed these children were rocked in the yard. And she said that her children said they didn't, and she didn't believe they did because they were not the kind of children that would have the nerve to throw things in white people's yards. So I called one of these attorneys and told him that these people did not have money. I said, "I'm calling on you now; I'm calling in my rain check." I said, "They don't have money." I said, "Now the next thing I want to tell you about this is that it's a civil liberties case." I said, "Now you know you might be running for office next time the election comes around, so I don't want you to jeopardize yourself in any way." He said, "Well, that's all right; that's all right about it having the earmarks of a civil liberties or civil rights case. You just tell me about it and tell the people to come down here and I'll handle it." So he did handle it, and the case was thrown out. And we sent somebody out there to listen in on the case (I've forgotten now who it was). But the person came back and reported that the old lady said, "You mean to

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say they're going to turn them niggers loose?" But he went out there and won that case. So we do have that type of cooperation from certain people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many members do you have?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We don't have a definite membership from the standpoint of … Our membership is one where they're not members unless they're registered to vote. We do not have a membership fee, so we can't say how many members we have. It's a loose membership. But we do have the cooperation of the mass. I mean, if a problem arises, say … well, just say a brutality case or some other thing where they need community action we can call a meeting and have a highly appreciative audience.
BOB HALL:
You're the real guiding spirit behind the organization?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, from the standpoint of publicity and public relations I am.
BOB HALL:
Are there other officers on there?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh yes; yes, we have officers just like every other organization. We're chartered by the state.
BOB HALL:
Were some of them people that you had worked with, like in the last twenty years or so, something like that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Some of them more than that, yes. See, the organization, as I told you, it was a parallel organization to NAACP in order that funds might be paid into it so that we could send it over to NAACP and we'd have an interlaced board (some of the officers in state office of NAACP were in certain positions with Citizens' Committee and vice-versa). It was really the NAACP riding under another name, just like many organizations have set-ups for channeling their funds through.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get involved in the state mental hospital situation

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in '65? How did that develop?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
That developed because we found out the conditions under which the people were living at what they called Palmetto Sanitorium.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you find out about the situation?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, we knew it all the time. Our homestead is in that area. But we didn't know it as well as we knew it until I went up in that area in business. And my sister who is now dead, the one who sued the University of South Carolina, was very friendly with a woman who lived on the premises of the state hospital. And this woman worked with us as a helper at the motel. And she would often tell us how these people had no shoes, and the women lacked underwear and gowns and things like that. And we kept talking about it, and finally we did the same type of thing that was done with the DeLaine case. We had people to go in disguise as though they were visiting the patients. And they slipped in cameras and took pictures of the situation there. Now they've often told me that I should have seen how my sister looked the Sunday they went in. But they looked like people that came from a little old town way off somewhere that didn't know they ought to be dressed up when they get to the state hospital. So they got into some of the buildings, some of the buildings that the folks (when I say the folks I mean the workers, nurses or whatever were in charge) weren't too particular about them getting in. So they did get into two of the worst buildings: some of them were leaking, dirty, unscreened and all like that. So then when we got that information—we had a lot of information by mouth, but then we got these pictures—then we asked for an audience with the governor, who was Russell at that time, Governor Donald Russell. Oh, we wrote a letter to the legislature (I ran across a copy of that letter the other day); we wrote a

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letter to the legislature and sent it to each member. Then we asked the governor for an audience, which he granted. We had that audience on the very day that Churchill died. I'll never forget it: it was a cold, sleety day—that Churchill was buried, I should say. And we asked him if he would visit the hospitals with us. The hospitals were definitely segregated. They had certification on the one downtown, which was called the South Carolina State Hospital, but the certification officers would come in and they weren't even told about this deplorable place for blacks up in the country—or if they'd known, it was part of the same thing: the State Mental Hospital wouldn't have been certified. So we laid all of that out. All of that writing that you saw in those papers, now all of that is my writing, and I could never go through that again.
Anyway, with my sister's assistance we found out a lot of these things. The governor, we asked him if he would go, and he said he would. We got outside in this kind of sleety cold day, and we sent back in and asked him if he would go a certain Saturday which would have been about ten days off. And he said he would write and let us know, which he did. Now the press somehow or other found out that we were having this meeting that day, and several members of the press appeared. One of them was from the Charleston News and Courier; his name is Hugh Gibson. I never had met Hugh before, and I never understood why we got such cooperation through their Columbia man, Columbia reporter, because the Charleston News and Courier had always fought me viciously as a Communist sympathizer. But anyway, they cooperated with us in this effort. And Hugh Gibson came out on the steps of the capitol and was talking to me about it; and he said, "Are you that Mrs. Simkins?" I said, "Yes, I am." He said, "I sat there looking at you." He said,

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"You just kept getting redder and redder in the face just like you were getting fatter or something or other. And I said, ‘I wonder if that old woman is going to explode."’ [Laughter] The governor had told the commissioner of the set-up to come down and to bring… Well, they had some plans where they were going to do thus-and-so. And so he had all these plans; you know, some of them were tissue paper and some of them were stiff paper. And it was a roll about this long, and when you opened it out it would be as long as this table here, or maybe longer if you opened the whole thing out. So he kept talking about this was going to be this and this was going to be that. So finally I said, "I am not concerned about the buildings you're going to build. When are you going to get some shoes and some underwear and some gowns for these people, and fix those buildings up?" And that's when I started to raise all hell. And so Hall stammers a little; he's very slow in talking and then he kind of stammers a little bit. And Hall couldn't get off the ground.
So we went on this visit. They arranged buses connected with the … you know they had buses to carry the patients around in. So the governor and his wife and two or three others, trustees of the state hospital, and a number of the Citizens' Committee members and others who desired to go went in these buses. We went and visited the one uptown here, and then we went on out to this other. And you would have to go through the literature to find out the differences in this and in that. They had psychiatrists down here at this place; they had no psychiatrists up at the other place—I mean, all these things are outlined in this literature. And after we got through visiting around at what they called the "Upstate" (the colored folks called it "Upstate") we had a gathering in the little chapel space, the

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little auditorium that they used for the patients up at Palmetto. And the governor and all of us sat in there and listened to certain reports and comments from the people who were in the buses as well as from some of the folk that worked up there. And so one of the men, McLendon, was a doctor up there (he's now dead); he said that they had these psychiatrists. I said, "Name the psychiatrists." And he couldn't do it. Then they had a regular beauty room set up downtown like a beauty parlor down at the S.C. State Hospital, up at Oaknetti they had one of these little, some kind of these little old-time washstands like people used to have back in the country, that you could hang a towel on the side of, sit a wash pan down in a little round hole, with one of these old-time oil lamps like you used to straighten your hair by; and maybe some of the folks I guess weren't even allowed… I mean, it was just an awful situation.
So then we disclosed all of that. And the next thing we knew they started those buildings there. There are beautiful buildings up there now. And they did it quickly too! There was one old soul up here at the S.C. State that was real shaken up about all the hell we were raising about the segregated state hospitals. She was crazy about cats, and she had these cats up there. And when the cats had kittens some of them were white and some were black and some were black and white. I was told that Miss Phipps (the cat lover) said that she bet Modjeska Simkins would have commendation for these black and white kittens being together—something in that order. Well, [Laughter] they sent another man, Tom McMahan who used to be with the State paper here and I knew him quite well (now he had become publicity man for state hospital). They sent him with some reports on the state hospital, and said they were going to

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work on this thing of integrating the hospitals. And they thought they could do it in five years. I said, "Five years?" (Some of our members were in there—we never have anything like that unless we have several that we can get off their jobs and get here.) I said, "In five years?" I said, "In Georgia they did it, I think, in less than two years." "Well, when do you think it ought to be done?" I said, "Now! We want it moved right now." Do you know what those cats even did? They brought two or three colored patients down from the Palmetto (black) state hospital and put them in the dining room or something there with the whites, and reportedly they had a little fight (I don't know, they might have generated a scuffle), and they said that's one reason they didn't want them together. And then we wrote a short article that if they had sense enough to know the difference between color and have color prejudice then they had too much sense to be in State Hospital; they ought to be turned out. [Laughter]
BOB HALL:
[Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
They also had a way of sending some of the women patients from Palmetto down there to bathe and help to dress the white patients up here at the S.C. (main) Hospital. And one of the old women's stomach got scalded very badly. And so we found out about it. We'd get all kind of news, from both white and colored informers. Sometimes they would bring the news and tell you, and sometimes if they didn't want their names recorded, they'd bring it here and push it through the slot and it'd fall down in the vault over there. So we said that this woman's stomach had been scalded while she was being bathed by one of these black patients, and we didn't know whether it was deliberate or not. Then they'd bring the black male patients from

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up there at Palmetto down to work on the yards down at this place while the white patients would be sitting in the swings and on the benches. That's nasty! And we just disclosed all that stuff, and it just got so hot that they just had to do something. It just got hot a'plenty.
The Anderson Independent attacked me on it—now when I say attacked me, they always go back. Instead of saying "The Citizens' Committee did thus-and-so" they'll say "The black activist in Columbia did thus-and-so or said thus-and-so". The "black activist" Modjeska Simkins, which is all right with me. But they always focus that attention, you know. Now it's all right; I mean to say I don't mind it except that I think the whole organization ought to have the credit.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Does the Citizens' Committee endorse candidates and take stands in political campaigns?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes we do, we do. That's a tacit endorsement.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Looking at the papers, it seems that one of your more controvertial stands was your opposition to Fritz Hollings. I think the NAACP supported him?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, they did; they did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What had been the basis of your…? You've maintained your opposition to him all…
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Still oppose him. Well, the stand that he took in the first Orangeburg uprising. You might find—if you didn't see in the Citizens' Committee stuff I can find it and send it to you—where Hollings, when they had that first strike at State College they arrested a lot of those students, scads of them. They didn't have enough space in the jail; they put them in an enclosure, a wired-in enclosure around the jail. It was a

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cold, freezing day—well, I won't say it was freezing, but it was very bitter cold. And some of those children were water-hosed; they rolled on the ground with the force of the hose. And Hollings was governor; he did nothing about it. Then at the next election the NAACP power structure backed him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Money. The money didn't go to the NAACP itself; it went in the pockets of some of the NAACP big wig people that collaborated.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now was he running for the U.S. Senate then?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
He was, right. Running against Olin D. Johnston, I think.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When? In sixty-…?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It must have been sixty-four, I guess; I guess it was sixty-four.
BOB HALL:
How did that work? Where did the money come from?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, it came from political forces,
BOB HALL:
From Hollings's supporters?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes. They'd pay it over to certain wheelers and dealers who say they can control the black vote. That doesn't happen only in South Carolina, but we know about it here. For instance, we had another organization in South Carolina called the Palmetto State Voters' Association, and they and the NAACP worked together. I mean, there was nothing wrong with that; it was just two organizations. The Palmetto State Voters put on a great effort to get people registered. In fact, there were several major efforts to get people registered right after we got the vote. And the Palmetto State Voters called their meeting—I guess it's Palmetto State Voters—and the NAACP called their meeting in Florence. I knew the meeting was to be. I

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helped to organize the Palmetto State Voters—in fact, I was on the board until it went out. But they didn't notify me of the meeting, but I got the news—you know, you always get those things. So they had this big meeting in Florence, and they thought at that time too that I couldn't get off. I got off from work and went over there. They were utterly surprised. When I went in I saw W. J. Hunter, who was president of the organization. They were just gathering; we got over there in good time (I took one of my girls from my motel over there with me). So I said, "Hunter, I understand that you've been paid off by the Hollings forces in this election that's coming up." He said, "Where'd you get that from? There's nothing like that." I said, "Oh well, you can get reports, you know." I said, "But I understand that you got some money." He said, "Well, I don't like that kind of report going out on me, and as soon as this meeting opens up I'm going to get up and explain that and tell them that's wrong. I don't want that report going out." I said, "Well, I think you should." So they started the meeting, and they were so non-plused that the man who was presiding at the meeting declared a ten minute recess. Before we could get started good they had the little—you know these Negroes always've got to look to God, even though they might have to raise hell right after they've prayed. So they had that little thing. And then the man declared a recess of ten minutes. So even this country girl that I took over there with me came to me and she said, "Mrs. Simkins, I ain't never heard of nobody's having a recess before they start the meeting good." I said, "Well, I don't know what it is, Eloise." I said, "But we'll just do like the old song says, ‘We'll march on and see what the end will be."’ So we wouldn't go out; we sat there. And they went in some little anteroom there and messed around, and then came back and opened the meeting. So by the time

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they were getting ready to reopen, which would have been when Hunter was going to make this disclosure, he came back to me and he said, "Modjeska, if they don't bring it up I don't believe I'll bring it up." I said, "I think you're right, boy. If they don't bring it up, if I were you I wouldn't bring it up." And I knew I had him then. So he was satisfied.
All right. They got in there and they started to—I don't know whether you all want to hear all this mess or not—deliberations.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
And then towards the afternoon session they decided they were going to talk about candidates. All the Charleston group was there. A lot of them as little boys, I reckon as little boys played with Fritz Hollings. And they were there strong, 100 percent strong. So they started talking about it. And they said they thought they'd better declare an executive session, and all the news people should be put out. There were about two or three poor little pitiful boking white reporters there coming from those little county papers, you know, and I guess the correspondents by wire for the state; so they got out. Somebody said, "That colored man sitting back there, he's a newspaper man too." Somebody said, "Well, he's colored; maybe…" "No, he's got to get out of there too." They put him out. Well, I was sitting over there; and they didn't know it, but I was a correspondent for the Associated Negro Press. I had gotten so at that time I wasn't as active as I had been, but I could have sent them anything I wanted to send them. They didn't know anything about my media connections, so I stayed on in there. So then they started talking about the candidates. So I told them that I didn't think they ought to name candidates that day. I said, "Any candidate you name today will have his position jeopardized as a candidate.

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It'll focus attention on him," I said, "and if you're going to vote for him the whites are going to stay away from him. So I think you should … just leave that alone today." Well, I knew what they wanted to do: they wanted to get the name of Hollings on the floor. So finally when they kept talking and wanting to get Hollings'—I knew what they wanted, because I saw the Charleston people huddled together—I said, "Now I think some of you all in here want to name Hollings as a candidate." I said, "I know who you are." I said, "Some of you've gotten money, and I know who you are, and I'm ready to disclose the names of whoever it is." I said, "Now if anybody gets up here today and decides they're going to back Hollings, well you know what happened in the Orangeburg strike. And they wet up all those girls out in the yard not knowing their conditions, just with the water hose and put them out there in that enclosure like that." I said, "I dare any of you to do it." Nobody did; they just made a motion that they'd work out a slate and mail it out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now who was Hollings running against?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Olin D. Johnston, as I remember. So then when I had left Columbia I had already gotten out my little slate; and my sister and the other girls at the place, and my niece and nephew were working on folding and stuffing the letters I had. I was getting out three thousand letters over South Carolina—at my own expense: I never allowed anybody to give me any money on those kind of things. Then I called Hunter. I said, "Hunter, I thought…" No, I got a call from Mr. Blackman in Elloree—the one that I told you about the Christmas party—and he said he'd gotten a letter from Newman, who was the executive director then of NAACP, bringing this little ballot in that they had used. I said, "Well, they haven't said

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anything to me about it." At that time the South Carolina State Conference office was upstairs in our banking building downtown, and they hadn't sent a thing to me about it. So Blackman said, "Well, they've got a ticket out, and they've got Hollings's name on the ticket." So I said, "All right, Mr. Blackman, we'll see where we move from there." By the way, to go back a little bit, when I got back to town that afternoon I had a call from a man here that I'd worked with when Truman was running in '48, when we had, believe it or not, to work almost like we were underground, because the Dixiecrat feeling here was so vicious against Truman supporters that we met quietly. And he called me saying that (I won't name the person he mentioned—I have a good reason for that), "Mr. so-and-so has been calling me all day telling me to get in touch with you and tell you to go to Florence. They're getting ready to nominate Hollings down there, name him as a candidate. And they've been trying to get you all day." I was told that the man'd been trying to get me all that day and reaching her. He said, "We wanted you to be sure to go to Florence." I said, "Oh man, I've been down there. The "cake's all dough" now; tell him don't worry about that." He was a very good friend of Olin D. Johnston; both of them were, for that matter. And we had decided we were going to get Hollings: a case of taking the one that smelled the best to you at that time, you know—you know, you had to follow that strategy all through the years. So after I got this message from Blackman I called Hunter. I said, "Hunter, I thought you all got out your ballot, and you were supposed to send them around to the different members of the Palmetto State Voters." I said, "I haven't gotten any letter from you with it." He said, "You worked against us. You went to Columbia and got your own ballot out, and sent it out all over the state. And we just didn't like

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that." I said, "You're just sitting down there telling a damned lie, Hunter." I said, "When I came to Florence I had people working on a letter the Citizens' Committee was going to get out in the state." I said, "When I got back I called a cab and sent fifteen hundred letters to the post office, and the rest of the three thousand's gone." I said, "now if you can catch up with them, doggone it, you catch up with them." So then I heard that same day when I got back that Hunter had gotten this money. So I said, "Hunter, you lied when you said you didn't get money." I said, "You got money from the Hollings' forces; you were paid off." I said, "Not only do I know that you got it, I know how much you got; I know who passed it over to you, and they have taped what was said during the conversation when it was passed over."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that true? Did you know all that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, I knew all of that; I knew it every bit. I said, "Now, you've got the money; dadblamit, you spend it. I dare you to spend it." And that's when I hung up the phone. That's one of the things that you tell them and then you don't give them a chance to answer; you hang up the phone. [Laughter] But Hollings spent a lot of money that year, but he was whipped. That's the year that they were trying to get Thurgood in the federal court up in New York.
But brother, there's been some hot times in strategy in this state. It's just had to be a cool, underground strategy a lot of the times. It's not so much in this type of thing, it's not so much what a person can do as what kind of strategy he can use to do it. But Humphrey spoke here a few months back; Hunter came over for the thing, and he came around to speak to me. We are good friends. But I don't know what Hunter ever did with that money.

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But I bet he didn't buy any new car right then with it. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Hollings ran against John Bolt Culbertson in '66.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
What about it?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Didn't Hollings run against Culbertson in '66?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Culbertson run against Hollings.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes; right. Who is he?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Who?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Culbertson.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Culbertson's a well-known character in this state. He's kind of like Waring. He used to belong to that old muck-de-muck aristocracy, and he turned towards the civil rights movement, handled a lot of the civil rights cases and was ostracized by whites and the legal profession.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was an attorney in Greenville?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
He's an attorney still in Greenville. He was a member of the legislature at one time. The first time I remember anything about John Bolt was when Thurmond was going out as governor. Thurmond wanted to take his desk and chair with him. And I was reading the State one morning, and it said that John Bolt Culbertson said if giving Strom Thurmond the desk and chair would get rid of him, give it to him! I said, well, that's sure a man I would like to know. [Laughter]
And then we had an organization here called the Columbia Women's Council, who brought in one of the first black congressmen. I've forgotten his name. He came out of Virginia. We brought him in here as

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a speaker, and we presented him in Columbia, Charleston, and in Greenville. We went up to Greenville right after that noted Greenville lynching. And Culbertson came to the meeting that night. The church was jam packed—Springfield Baptist Church. I looked back—I was sitting up in the pulpit —and I looked back and I saw somebody worming their way through the crowd to get to the rostrum. And there was two white men, one of them named Dick Foster, as I remember his name, and the other was John Bolt. John Bolt Culbertson had been the attorney for the lynchers in the Greenville lynching, the Willie Earl case. And he came in that night and confessed to the people that as an attorney he took the case … he's union attorney; he's with the textile workers, as a matter of fact, and a number of men in the Willie Earl case were members of the Textile Union of which he was the retained attorney. He confessed that night why he handled the case, almost was forced to handle it, but that how repentant he was, and that he wanted them to know that from then on, that he would never take a case like that, and that from then on, he would enter the civil rights fight and would fight every way he could for better conditions or civil rights, or something like that—which he's carried on ever since.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was on the SCEF board?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
At one time, yes. You would enjoy talking to Culbertson. He has a great big old house up there. He has a place where you can stay. He's a remarkable person.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did Fritz Hollings manage to get such a reputation for liberalism?

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MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know. I've never known him to have … I guess, well, he was pleasantly known by the Charleston Negroes and I guess, you know, when the support came out on Dr. Fatch … the physician in Beaufort County, S.C. that brought out about the worms and the malnutrition in local children, and they tried to kill him off down there. Hollings eventually entered into the food fight, as you remember. I think it was after he entered the nutrition thing that they wanted to give him this doctorate over there at Benedict.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't think Hollings has had a change of heart?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't think any of them change their hearts. They're that kind-'till they get ready to die.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you read Jack Bass and Jack Nelson's book, The Orangeville Massacre?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I've read reviews on it, but I've never read the book entirely.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I just wondered what you thought about it, as somebody who'd followed it closely and been involved.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I didn't read the book. I don't get a chance now to read many books through and through. Every day when you say tonight, "I'll do this tomorrow," something else comes up. I don't get a chance. I read short articles and reviews. I know Jack Bass well. He used to be on the Charlotte Observer here, and I know him real well. We've been on numbers of situations together. I know all about that Orangeburg situation. Now about what the book is concerned, I don't know what I would think about that. Knowing him as I do, I guess I'd be pleased with it.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
He told me a story about your calling him up and telling him about the conditions in the mental hospital, and they sounded so bad, he didn't believe they could be true. When he found out they were true, that's when he started keeping his ears open for what the Citizens' Committee had to say.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, a lot of times they don't believe those things. Just like a lot of these officials you have, public officials, you know. They live in the muck-de-muck neighborhoods and when they go home, they don't even pass the blighted areas. They don't know what's going on. A lot of them don't know. They ought to know. You don't excuse them because they don't know. You blame them because they ought to know. No, they wouldn't have believed. The governor didn't know about this thing up there at the Palmetto hospital. I do know that the next Sunday, Saturday or Sunday after we brought out these earlier disclosures, somebody went up there and they had one of these long vans. I tell you why they went up. We got the intelligence in some way that some people from some noted mental institution up around Baltimore were coming in here. The governor had invited them in here for consultation about the situation, and we heard that they were going to be up there that Sunday. And so we sent somebody up there. And this big van was up there unloading underwear and things for these people. Said it was one of the longest vans they ever saw. And they had all this apparel, shoes and all that. But the same week that I'm telling you about, when they had this sleet storm, we had the intelligence that a lot of those women didn't even have shoes when they

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walked from one building over to the dining hall. They had to walk barefooted on sleet. The white patients down here at the main hospital were in good steam-heated buildings and everything, all right. It's just hard for some people to wonder how human beings can neglect other human beings like that. And you can't polish it. You can't always put in black and white what you want to say. But when you're talking man-to-man like we were down there in that office, the governor's office, you can just turn it loose, lay it bare. And just tell it for what it is. They'll try to say, "Oh, it couldn't be that bad," and all like that. They don't want to know half the time. They find money for what they want to find money for.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your involvement in the events that led up to the Orangeburg …
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I can't say I was involved in the events that led up there. I made this shortly before that … I think I made this address—in fact, it's on that green sheet on that copy I gave you—and I talked to the youth NAACP down there. But I wasn't involved in what actually happened. The Sunday that I was down there … how that thing started involving that thing at Orangeburg was some of the fellows that came back from the Korean War and went to ROTC or something down there, I mean, were connected with the student body down there, were dissatisfied coming back finding the same situations. And they started that ferment. They'd already marched to downtown the week before I was asked to be speaker at the youth NAACP. So the thing happened the next Tuesday or Thursday night, or something like that. I know they got a little old piece of a black paper down there called … I've

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forgotten what that paper is—and he wrote in the paper that … I mean, he insinuated strongly that it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been down there. So that impression may have gone out that I had something to do with the actual strike, but I did not. It was started, really, by the dissatisfied veterans, I mean, the ferment. We went down there, I think it was on Tuesday night. Somebody called here about 10:30 to my home, and that's the night that they first marched down through the area. We got together two or three Citizens' Committee members, one of the men, so he could drive or would be with us as women. We got one man that we could get that night, and we got down there, I guess, about 12:00. and talked about the situation. Came on back to Columbia. And on Thursday, I guess it was, we had a meeting with the man who was chairman of the Commission on Higher Education at that time, the late John Canthen.
We discussed with him the conditions at State College. We had, by that time, organized what was called the Task Force for Quality Education because we were getting ready to run away Turner, who was the president down there. We didn't think we were going to run him away so fast, but it got so hot he left the scene at the end of that school term, which was way out in the school term when these events started to happening.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This wasn't the same Turner that was involved in the Hollings situation, was it?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
President of State College?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, we ran that rascal away from here—at high speed. I wouldn't say he was involved in the Hollings situation. He was there when Hollings was governor. He catered altogether to the whites in Orangeburg. He hardly moved around to any social functions or anything with Negroes. I don't mean to say he went to white functions.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

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JACQUELYN HALL:
We were talking about Orangeburg.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Oh, we were in Mr. Cauthen's office, and Billy Fleming of Clarendon, and a fellow who by that time had been a black trustee of State College was there (I've forgotten his name), and another black trustee named I.P. Stanback was there, and a student from Orangeburg and I. And this student was very much upset, in that he made the statement that they needed relief at Orangeburg. If something did not happen to cool the situation, he felt there was going to be bloodshed. That was on in the afternoon about four o'clock. So Mr. Cauthen, we finished having our meeting about the Orangeburg situation, and Mr. Cauthen and Governor Robert E. McNair by that time had had a serious difference about the higher education program in the state. Hollings was governor during the first strike; this was the second strike. Mr. Cauthen and McNair had had serious differences about the way education should be handled in the higher institutions. So Cauthen said, "I don't know whether there's much that I can do with Bob, but I'll tell you what you all do. I have a brother who is ill, and if anything happens so that you need me you call me at my home. And if I'm not there, you call me at my brother's home. And if I'm not at my brother's home I'll be between the two, and they will give me the message." [interruption]
So we had a member of our organization down at Orangeburg; he's a photographer and newsman, freelance. So we had him down there. After we left Cauthen's office we came into this office, and two men from Orangeburg met here with Billy Fleming and myself, and we were talking about the Orangeburg situation. The phone rang, and our representative at Orangeburg

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said, "It's happening here." He said, "The militia is down here with SLED [State Law Enforcement Division] with all their guns and Caterpillars and whatever they had." He said, "You can almost hear the machines being pulled into place." I said, "Well, where are you now?" He said, "I'm at the telephone at the railroad station, and I can hear the machine guns being pulled into place." I said, "Well, you keep us posted, Abraham." So then these two fellows said, "Well, we can't have any more meeting tonight. We've got to go to Orangeburg." They both lived in Orangeburg. They said, "We can't have any more meeting tonight; we are going right now." So they left, but one of them said, "My boy is down there in school, and I'm going now." So they left. I went on home, and at about 9:30 I got another trouble call from our representative in Orangeburg. And then a little bit later I got the call that they'd fired into this student group, and that some of them had been killed. That was less than five hours, five and a half hours after we were meeting in Mr. Cauthen's office.
In the meantime, when we got a hold to Cauthen we had already called the governor's mansion. Some nitwit they had up there (who seemed to be a retard of about second-grade intelligence) kept telling us (we didn't get his name) that "The governor's not here; the governor's not here." So when we got Mr. Cauthen he said, "Bob is there, and I will call him." So he called, and called back. Billy and I stayed here. He called back and said, "Bob said that the students were threatening to burn down a white lady's house there by the campus, and her property has got to be protected." That's all the answer he got from McNair.
So then (I guess it's torn down now) there was an old two-story house there that looked worse than my house, all dilapidated. My house is not

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dilapidated, it's just not painted. My house is over 125 years old, and it's made of solid hard pine, so there isn't a loose board on it. But that was an old, run-down place that had been there ever since I was working in Orangeburg. And that's what Bob McNair was talking about. So then the thing broke: things was in turmoil, terribly. The next morning it didn't take long for it to get into a boil.
To show you the stripe of the NAACP leadership. That was in February when the massacre happened. The national convention was held that year in June, as I remember, in Chicago—well anyway, it was held in June. And every high exponent of the NAACP was with McNair and those in Chicago.3
BOB HALL:
Was what?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Was with the Democratic delegation in Chicago, every last one of them: up there wining and dining and, you know, collaborating with the S.C. Democratic crew that had upheld the massacre. Well, that same convention, I've forgotten his name, some black fellow out of Washington was nominated for president. He didn't get a quarter of a vote out of the South Carolina delegation, which included several black delegates. Also they were up there talking about nominating, trying to get McNair nominated as vice-president, as perhaps you know. So the Citizens' Committee discussed the stand they were going to take on that; of course he never would have been nominated, but we wanted to get "a little piece of the rock," as they say. We sent telegrams up there to Lyndon Johnson and Humphrey, the wire services, NBC, CBS and ABC and all like that. We sent telegrams up there about the situation in South Carolina and against McNair. And when I got my bill on my telephone it was $136 worth of telegrams— [Laughter] which the organization paid; I didn't lose it. They OKed it; they said, "Whatever you send up there will be all right with us." And we didn't hear any more about Mr. McNair being

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talked about as vice-president. The wire services in this state didn't pick it up, except—I mean, it wasn't carried in Columbia at all—a little paper over in Florence (I understand; I never saw the article). But the people in Florence told me it was carried over there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean the Columbia paper didn't cover the Orangeburg massacre?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I mean they didn't cover these telegrams we sent up there. Oh yes, they covered the massacre, but they didn't cover these telegrams we sent to Chicago. But they had their effect, and McNair has never dared run for office again. We served notice from that day that any time he runs for office he's going to have to face the massacre, going to have to face it. Now I understand he wanted badly to run for office. They tried to get up enough steam for him as governor the last state convention, but they couldn't get it off the ground. I understand that he wants to run for office and his wife is very much against him making the venture.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I read an article about Redfern II. He talked about how much influence, what an influence you had been on him in the early days. I wondered if you worked, if you had close relationships with other of the student leaders of that period?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, yes we did. They organized here in Columbia what they called the Blacks United for Action, and they asked me to sit in with them. Or I might tell them just like I told you all to come down here—I'm comfortable down here. And they came down here and we'd have committee meetings here. And a number of those youngsters, Redfern being in the bunch, I had very pleasant relations with, and still have.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were some of the other student leaders that you were close to?

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MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, John Harper was one. He's run for the legislature—no, county council. He's run for the legislature once or twice and is one of the moving spirits in the United Citizens' Party. A number of them… A fellow named Hemmingway: he wasn't a student here, he was an instructor at Benedict. He was over the history department over there, and some difference came up between him and Payton, who was president at that time. Several of the instructors left. He's at Florida A & M now, out in Tallahassee. Oh, I don't remember some of the others. Some of the others are still in civil rights efforts one way or the other. There was a bunch of them, but I do remember there was Harper, Broadwater (whom I mentioned a while ago, who wasn't a student but worked in the movement, in the United Citizens' Movement which grew out of the Blacks United for Action), and a fellow by the name of Tolliver, who was teaching at Benedict (he is now off up in northern New York somehwere in an organization). There were a number of them whose names don't come to me at once; then some whose names I just didn't know. Sometimes you work in groups like that and you don't always know the names. For instance, there was a very smart girl that worked in that group and that helped us set up the South Carolina Task Force for Quality Education, which had as its aim to get rid of President Turner at Orangeburg. And we thought that it was going to take us about two years to do it; but things got so hot he just left. And they had an interim president the next year, and then later they made him president of the institution. Now you get after certain of these people with certain tactics; they don't stick long. They don't stick long when certain forces get behind them, because, as somebody told me, one of these white politicians said, "Don't never want that old woman [meaning me] to get behind me, 'cause when she

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starts she doesn't know how to turn loose." So they realized that whatever we start is a persistent effort.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This is on a completely different topic, but what did you think about the activities of the South Carolina Council on Human Relations during the civil rights movement? Did you work with them, or did you think that they played a role? What role did you see them playing in all this?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I thought they played a… They worked with us, I mean they collaborated with us in the student action movement—I mean in the fights. Alice Spearman Wright was head of the movement at that time, and she's always been a vigilent and almost radical spirit. She's living in North Carolina now, but I think she's here writing her memoirs a good bit of the while. Do you know her?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
And they exerted great influence. They exerted an influence similar to the Southern Regional, a leavening influence. In fact, I think their papers will show that they played a very strange role in there. You know, they're not what you'd call a violent action group, but you don't always need everybody in the violent action. I've never been one to feel… You know, there are some Negroes that'll get mad with white people because they don't say certain things or do certain things. I've always taken a different position, that it takes more for a white man to buck the power structure than it does for a black person to buck the power structure. Without wanting to be personal, I think a lot of the stands that I have taken in the state no white woman could have taken and gotten away with it. I don't mean they'd have killed her, but she just would have been so ostracized. She would have been like the Warings; she wouldn't have been given any

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attention in her community. So I have always sympathized with anybody, white or black, that had a deep and abiding conviction and didn't have the nerve to express it. And yet I sympathize with a white person, man or woman, who has these convictions but knows he still has to live with his people, and that Negroes don't have anything particular to offer him now. The Culbertsons have been ostracized in their community; they very seldom have visitors except from outside the community somewhere.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Alice Spearman? What was her relationship with the white community like? Did she meet any kind of ostracism?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I can't say that; well, I will say that there would have been circles where she wouldn't have been welcomed. But Alice is a type of person like I am; she just doesn't give a damn. But there were certain places where she wouldn't have been welcome. As John Bolt Culbertson used the expression all the time, "She would have been like a bastard at a family reunion"— [Laughter] that type of thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things did you work with her on? Where did your paths cross?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We first became connected, I think, in the early part of the emergency program of the ERA, back in those years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, you told me about that. But then during the civil rights movement did you… ?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, we worked very closely there. She has never appeared to waver; she's always held a tight line. And she's always expressed herself; she's never failed to express herself very positively about situations. She was very close to the movement all through the student marches. I've never had any reason whatsoever to suspect Alice of any wavering.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know why she was replaced by Paul Matthias?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
She wasn't replaced; she just bowed out. She wasn't replaced. She wanted to move out; I think she was thinking about doing writing or something like that. But for a good while she was looking for someone to take the position.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It wasn't any criticism of her leadership at all?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no. But people that worked in Southern Regional in this state are people that are, well, willing to take certain stands. There are not a whole lot of them that'll take certain public stands. But they didn't have any complaint against Alice; she's held in very high regard.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How can you account for somebody like her, coming from the kind of class background that she comes from?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, there are just certain times that God makes people to answer certain purposes and take certain positions. It's just like he doesn't make a Martin Luther King in every generation. I think providentially certain people are created to take certain stands. Now I was talking to John Bolt. I was up there one night (I was to spend the night, but I got kind of restless about home and I came on in home late that night). But we sat up and talked perhaps 'til about 1:30. And he tried to understand why he was like he was. But I don't think that he knows. He told me that his father was definitely of the old type reactionary, and that he would ask his mother and father questions: "Why is it that—maybe some of the boys on the farm (I'll say a boy named Jim)—why can't Jim go to school with me every day?"—meaning the colored boys. And he said as a little boy he asked these questions that there was no reason why he should have asked having come from the type of background that he did. But he always wondered about

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those things. Well, you see, it's the same as the Waring situation. Waring belonged to that old Charleston h-a-r-d rock aristocracy. But sometimes people can't understand why that. I have a friend who works with us in the Civil Liberties Union, and he was talking to me one night; he was over here at one of the Ravenel rallies, and he brought his father-in-law with him. So after that I was talking to him. I said, "How is your father-in-law?" He said, "Oh, he's doing pretty good." He said, "But do you know one thing? He could be a first cousin to George Wallace." [Laughter] Now his daughter, my friend's wife, is exactly the opposite. She works for Civil Liberties Union and all the activities, and against oppression over in Aiken County, which was always kind of a hot county. But now there's his daughter that comes out just like Alice, you see. Alice came from an aristocratic situation up in Greenville. I think it was in Greenville County, the old Norwoods are an old aristocratic moneyed family. I remember when George Norwood used to be with us in the Republican party.
And you just can't say; you don't know why. Like people ask me, "Why are you like that?" I say, "I don't know why I'm like I am; I just don't know." But I do think that every person is created for a purpose. It might be something that never comes to light, but he performs that purpose. It may be a mother that had twelve children and one of them becomes prominent in world activities or something, you know. And if she'd used birth control that twelfth child wouldn't have been here, or that seventh down among the twelve wouldn't have been here. So I think maybe that mother's purpose was to bring forth that child. Just like the Bible says, Mary was here to bring forth Christ. I don't know, and that's the only way I can account for it, that it's something in the scheme of things.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, you come from an educated family, from a class background itself that could have led you in a very different direction when you came along?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
That's right. All my mother's children did. And it just so happens that in our set-up the girls, all of my sisters and I were creatures of confrontation; and my brothers would assist, but they're very quiet.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why are the girls different from the boys?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I don't know that; that's something I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That reminds me of something I was wondering about. When we talked before you made the observation that women, black women have been able to speak out, in the early days especially, in places where men would have been lynched.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Perhaps lynched, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But on the other hand, when you look… I mean, just as we've talked about the movement or when we look at what's been written about the movement, you see in the positions as public spokesman or publicly recognized leaders of the civil rights movement, almost all of them are men. How do you account for that?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I account for it precisely that women have stood back and let men play the role, just like in a lot of church work. I don't know how close you all are to churches, but you know in the average church the leaders are men but the actual work is done by women. [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why have women taken a back seat in that way? Why have they been willing to do the work and not get the credit?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, in the first place the church always taught under the philosophy of Paul that the man is the head of the family as Christ is the head of

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the church. Paul said that man was the head of things, and they have taken that role or assumed that role and women have let them do it. The other thing is that I think it's one of the outcomes of slavery. We were and still are largely a maternalistic society, black society is. And it so happens that when one does decide she ain't going to take it any more she becomes prominent in her own right, like for instance in the case of the black abolitionist women. And there are a number of women who have taken roles in various parts of the country, like Mary Church Terrell and like that that not a whole lot has been written about. I guess if you just get down and write (or maybe it's written but we don't all know about it)… But you know the old saying in the South has been that the only free people in the South is the black woman and the white man, you see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What surprises me is why it is that when black women played such a strong role in the community itself, why they haven't been more prominent. Of course, I think you're right that part of it is that they've been there but they haven't been written about or uncovered. We have an interview with—did you know Ella Baker?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she come through South Carolina when she was NAACP field secretary in the forties? Did you know her then?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I've been knowing her a good while, but I don't remember if she came here then or not.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You worked with her?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, I worked with her off and on a few years. She was on the board of the Southern Conference, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She talks about her situation in the SOLO office, in which she

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played a real role in getting the office set up to begin with and did the work, but was never… They kept bringing in preachers to appoint them executive director, even though she was there doing the work. And she quit, I think, really over that issue. Was the issue of the position of women ever raised in the civil rights movement in this state?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, no. In the early NAACP we had branch presidents and branch officials who were women. No, it was never raised. I don't think in this state we ever played down any women, but lots of times it was just when they had these elections they'd just from force of habit elect men. I don't think they'd even take a second thought about it. [omission]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could you tell me a little bit about how the integration of the Columbia public schools came about?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, it just came about that we had met with the board. Getting into the board meeting was almost like getting into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. They had what they called Negro supervisors, supervisors of the Negro schools. They were kind of like a buffer state, and they'd tell you to see the Negro supervisors. And we finally said, "We didn't elect the supervisors; we elected board members, and we're coming to the board." When they would tell us that we would say, "We are coming to the board." And so on one occasion when we said we were coming to the board we told the colored people, we said, "Let's go down there and pack the place, 'til it's just black in there." So we had them packed on all the stairs going up there on the second floor meeting room.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was this?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
This must have been in '64, I guess. And they would listen to us. As some of our reports on the ese meetings will show, they would listen

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to us, but they were just as stoney faced as poker players. And we even caught one of them passing a note, "Say nothing. Don't answer anything." We put that in one of those reports. They were trying to pass it over one of our members, but she caught what was on the note. So finally, we went to that meeting. When we got down there, I don't know how they found out, but all the TV folks were down there. They had TV machines all outside the place and inside the place too. I guess somebody who reported generally on the school board's meetings must have told the other folks about it. One of them even came out here and got an interview with me—brought his little camera out here, and had that in the paper leading up to this meeting down there. And then after we saw we weren't going to get anywhere we just issued this public release, and said, "When school opens, take your children to the school of your choice." And that's what a lot of parents did. And that was it.
Then they tried to tell us that they could take only qualified students. And we took the position that if they called themselves having legal schools for everybody, if they was qualified in one school they were qualified in another. So they couldn't get by on that. There was a letter in there to that effect, the position we took at that time. So that was the end of that. They had at that time a supervisor who was at another meeting I went to for some other purpose. When I was leaving he said, "I'd like to speak to you." He said, "There's not but so much that I can say or do, but don't you all let up in the fight." And at that time they had decided to build a big black high school way out at the other end of the black neighborhoods. And he said, "They already have the lagoon"—it was some term they have for a very large septic tank.

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But they already had the site selected and the lagoon constructed. They had that all done. He said, "They've got that sewage thing set up. They're ready." And they were going to haul our students from lower Richland maybe twenty or twenty-five miles to upper Richland. They tried for ten years to get rid of Booker Washington High School. And it was even carried in the State; an article is somewhere in our papers that the Negro-black activist Modjeska Simkins had been instrumental in preventing the city school system from closing Booker Washington school. They didn't close it until '74, and they wouldn't have done it then if we'd have gotten the NAACP to move. The NAACP executive director here ordered them, according to the youth chairman and the local chairman, to have nothing to do with the Booker Washington school situation. If we had known that the Citizens' Committee would have moved in on a provision in the school code that if people in a section want to use the facilities that are closed by a school system they have to make themselves known within so much a period of time. And when we found out… As I asked Mr. Broadwater to look into the situation, when he looked into it he found out that the chairman at the time was against it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they want to close the Booker T. Washington school?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
They wanted to take over that for the University of South Carolina. They've got all the Negroes, big Negro section over on the area where the University was moving. Some of those people were living in property that had been left them by their parents since back in slavery. Just cleaned it out. They set up an independent land purchasing thing

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called the Columbia Development, or something like that, that went in and bamboozled and hoodwinked a number of the Negroes to give them different prices for their land. And then they moved down to everything but the school; the school used to be in the center surrounded by everybody. Then they decided to gobble that in, and we couldn't do anything about it. We asked them to use it, way back ten years prior to that we asked them to use it for a laboratory school. I understand (I didn't see them), but I understand a number of the white students from the university (before we got some blacks in there) were interested in the colored children: that they went down and offered their assistance in teaching. You know, they just wanted to work with the children. It could have been used well as a laboratory school, but they finally just took it over. I got so that I was just disgusted and tired of fooling with it. I guess I could have fought longer. But they finally had some kind of little organization here—still have it—called … something for the alumni. But I don't go to it; I don't even bother with it one way or the other. The thing is done. It's done; there's no use trying to smooth it over with some kind of icing. Just let it be naked and bare and hurt.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did the first black children go to the public schools in the city?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
It must have been in '65, I guess it was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How integrated are the schools now?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, as far as the housing patterns will allow it, I'll say they're about integrated about as much as they can be. You see, the exponents in the power structure have eyes like eagles; they can see way down the road. I remember once when Thurgood Marshall was here we were talking about

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this school situation. He made a statement that I've never forgotten; he said, "The solution to the school segregation program is going to be the housing pattern." And at that time(we were then in the voting case), the school officials were already looking down the road along with the real estate officials (they had a number of white real estate people on the board). They could foresee where Columbia was spreading, and they arranged to move the black element in a certain direction. When they went there the schools were carried there. So then when the schools were set up and the housing patterns set up there weren't many whites in those given areas to go into those schools that were in predominantly black areas. But they foresaw that long ago. Not only did they foresee that, some of those real estate rascals on the board saw even where they were going to build white schools and bought up land as future investment, knowing that the schools were going there and the residences would move with them, you know. We mentioned that in some of our papers too. They thought we didn't see it; but we saw it, about real estate members of the board profiteering on school building, on school situations.
Now the other thing that we were instrumental in was integrating the public hospital here, the tax-supported hospital. We used to have a black unit down here; and the whites and all these big units across the street, they moved out to a new situation right straight ahead (you can almost see it if you stand in the middle of that street out there). And we were able to do a lot in that direction. In that time that we were integrating the state hospital and the Richland County hospital situations, we had full cooperation of HEW. HEW changed a lot after the Nixon administration opened

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up. And we could not have done after the Nixon administration what we did prior in the Johnson administration. All we had to do was to let them know we had a problem here—and I guess that was true in other states—and we'd get a call saying they were coming in to Columbia, and they'd be stopping at such-and-such a place and they'd get in at such-and-such a time. "And before we go in to look at the situation we'll be over and talk to you about it." We had that type of cooperation from HEW with the schools and hospitals. Now the people in power in those institutions didn't know that we had that clout, but we had it; our files will show it. There was an appropriation for the state hospital of over $700,000 that was held up for months because of the stand that we took.
BOB HALL:
Were there incidents when you integrated either the schools or the hospitals that necessitated a lot of police and that sort of stuff?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
The main one we had here was where it was created by the Watson forces when he was running for governor. And it didn't appear… He didn't think it was going to get out, but it got out that Albert Watson influenced them to do that.
BOB HALL:
That he had created it, you mean?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
His forces. I wouldn't say that he personally, but I believe he did. He's that type of a man.
BOB HALL:
This is around school desegregation?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, at one of the big white high schools here. But they didn't get far with it because we peeped the hand. Not only did we, a number of whites peeped the hand.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So weren't there the kind of anti-segregation demonstrations that there

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were in places like Little Rock and New Orleans?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
We didn't have those in Columbia. But of course there was feeling, and there were a lot of white parents that were raising their children going to school with blacks—and vice versa. But we didn't have any demonstrations like they had in Little Rock.
BOB HALL:
Nor did you have demonstrations actually to get kids in. I mean, they just went to school.
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
When they went they took them in. The main thing, though: the chairman of the board said they would take qualified students. And we hit them with that statement that I made. And, you see, when you can meet a man, when you can condemn him with his own actions there isn't much he can do. There isn't much he could do. How could they say that they have a dual system that is separate but equal, and then they said, "We'll take black students that are qualified"? You see, they just opened up to attack.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The first black student in a white institution was Harvey Gantt, right, at Olemson? That was the first integration?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Yes, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That was in '63, I believe; and it was in that same year that the first three black students were admitted to the University, right?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
No, I don't think it was the same year; it must have been the next year or the next.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your niece was one of those three students. What was her experience like at the University?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Just like any other student's. Nobody bothered her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
The president asked my sister to put her on the campus that

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first year; the next year she went from home to school. They built a fence straight down a block behind one of the buildings, thinking that people might rush in from that side. But nobody bothered her; there wasn't anything there. There wasn't any trouble at all. [omission]
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
JACQUELYN HALL:
In terms of political strategy or your notion of how social change can come about, do you have a populist vision on…
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
I guess it's a nosy vision. I just like to be in a fight. I don't mind as long as it's a clean fight. I don't care how hot it is as long as it's clean.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the long term, how do you think real fundamental change can be brought about?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, I don't think it can be brought about well in any way but through the ballot, and through effective teaching of our people to vote on issues and the type of candidates rather than to vote a straight ticket. And I think until we kill off some of these old devils we've got that are trying to sell the Negro electorate out to the Democratic party there'll be nothing we'll be able to do very much. But we've got to keep trying; we've got to keep fighting that issue—our organization always does. Every election we put on a special series of programs, radio programs, and that's our point of attack. We've just about unfrocked a number of them. But I just like a fight. I don't feel good when I'm not in a fight. [omission]
END OF INTERVIEW
1. For father's family history, see the first interview, G-0056-1.
Some History of South Carolina.
3. They included State Executive Secretary I. DeQuincy Newman, State Conference President A. H. Holman, and NAACP Counsel Matthew J. Perry.