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South Carolina - Charleston: Ethel J. Grimball Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Ethel J. Grimball on Johns Island, South Carolina. She discusses education, her father, Esau Jenkins, and the contributions of the inhabitants of Johns Island to the Civil Rights movement in Charleston. She talks about why her father concentrated on rural areas. Many of the people who marched in the Hospital Workers' Strike came from the islands; the city people do not participate. She says she is not comfortable discussing the strike specifically, but she does talk about her father. He was always concerned about education, healthcare, and developing self-sufficiency. She says people from the city think of the people from the island as "dumb, stupid, and backward." She talks about the stigma against dark skin. She is currently working with single women, dealing with self-esteem. She also works with children and young people. St. John's High School is the only public high school for the children of Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, where less than ten percent of the students go on to college. The school board is made up of six black people and one white person, with a white superintendent. Previously, there were only small schools on the island, with one teacher for all grades. Students could not attend Burke High School in Charleston unless they lied about their address. There was St. Johns School for whites, but the black students were not educated past the seventh grade. Grimball attended Legareville Elementary, taught by Isadore Richardson, where students learned black history and were made them feel good about themselves. They organized a parent Grievance Committee. They guarded the interests of Haut Gap High School, which was the black school built on Johns Island in 1953 after the department of education got tired of bussing students to Burke High School. It is now a middle school. The Grievance Committee still exists, made up of community members, though many of the parents are now young school dropouts who do not understand the value of education. The Grievance Committee and other concerned citizens are still meeting to try to improve conditions at St. John's High School. Dent talks about the difference if feelings of ownership over segregated and desegregated schools. They discuss whether or not if it is possible to bring that sense of pride back without bringing back segregation. Dent talks about visiting Charleston, but never having met Esau Jenkins. He tells her about some of the people he has spoken to about her father. Grimball shares material she has collected about her father, who died October 30, 1972. She talks about his life. His mother died when he was nine and he married at sixteen. He continued his education later and made sure there were books available for his children to learn about black history. She talks about attending church. Her father encouraged them to think and was able to keep them in school. She never felt it was a burden to be his daughter.
Microphone adjustments were made at the beginning of the recording. Interview begins 00:01:40.
Civil rights demonstrations
Dent, Thomas C.
Jenkins, Esau, 1910-1972
Johns Island (S.C.)
Wadmalaw Island (S.C.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 148, Item 5, 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.