Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Functions of the Richland County Citizens' Committee

Simkins briefly describes the functions of the Richland County Citizens' Committee, of which she became public relations director in 1956. Simkins places the Richland County Citizens' Committee (founded in 1956) within the context of the South Carolina Citizens' Committee (founded in 1944) in order to help mobilize volunteers at the local level to help the NAACP with its goals for school integration. Because of her prior work with the Tuberculosis Association and with the NAACP, Simkins was able to build connections between the Richland County Citizens' Committee and other state organizations, thus expanding its reach and its overall effectiveness.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Well, my activities have been altogether with the Rich land County Citizens' Committee.
Tell me about the organization of that.
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. 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 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.
You had a radio program?
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.