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South Carolina - Charleston Bernice V. Robinson Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Bernice V. Robinson in Charleston, South Carolina. Dent talks about Africa, related to a program at the college he recently attended. He recalls experiencing generosity in Gambia and talks about the expanding Sahara and the dryness he encountered in Burkina Faso. Robinson talks about a trip to Russia and observing the disparity between rich and poor. She talks about her background. She is a native of Charleston and attended Burke High School, graduating in 1930. She took a class on real estate brokerage in New York, and later worked as a beautician. She was married the year after she graduated high school. She left for New York in 1936 when her marriage had ended; she had a young daughter and was unable to find work. She sewed in factories in the Garment District and worked in a beauty shop in New York. She moved to Philadelphia, where her sister lived, to take a job with the Signal Corps when World War II broke out. She moved back to New York after a year, and went to work for the Internal Revenue Service. She suffered from low blood pressure, which her doctor attributed to her erratic work schedule. She resigned, retook the civil service test, and got a job at the Veterans Affairs Administration where she was able to work all days for better pay. She stayed there until 1947. Her job ended after the war was over, and she was supposed to go to work for the Treasury Department. Her father called to tell her not to pick her daughter up from the train. Her mother was sick and was unable to get her ready to travel. Instead, Robinson went home to care for her parents and she never returned to begin her new job. Friends of a friend took over her apartment in New York and shipped her things back to Charleston. It took her a while to readjust to the segregated environment, which still offered no work for her. She got into an altercation with a White man on the bus who wanted her to move further back. There was no organized demonstration culture at that time, although Black citizens had just been given permission to vote in the primary elections that year. She worked for an upholsterer for $15 a week. She joined the NAACP when she returned home and that was when she met Esau Jenkins. She worked as NAACP secretary and worked to register voters. Jenkins organized the Citizens Committee of Charleston County. They also formed the Political Action Committee. Charleston and South Carolina are not union territories. Robinson explains how to drive to Johns Island. In 1954, Jenkins ran for the school board on Johns Island, but did not win. There were not enough Black registered voters at the time. Following that election, they began appointing school board members. They talk about the teacher salary equalization fight of the late 1940s and Highlander Folk School. She first went to Highlander in 1955, at the suggestion of Septima Clark. She elaborates on the voter registration work she did.
Civil rights demonstrations
Dent, Thomas C.
Jenkins, Esau, 1910-1972
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 148, Item 13, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.