Modjeska Monteith Simkins
Known as the “matriarch of Civil Rights activists” in S.C., Modjeska Monteith Simkins led the charge for equality tirelessly her entire adult life.
"I woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom."
Modjeska Monteith Simkins was born in Columbia, S.C. on December 5, 1899 to Henry and Rachel Hull Monteith as the granddaughter of emancipated slaves and eldest of eight children. She served as a leader to several organizations, including the NAACP, the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association, Southern Negro Youth Conference as well as co-owner of Motel Simbeth, which appeared in the Negro Traveler's Green Book. Although her activism extends across more than seven decades and numerous causes, she is best remembered for her leadership during the early Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina.
From 1934 until her death in 1992, Modjeska Monteith Simkins’ home in Columbia, SC served as the center for civil rights and social justice activities. Historic Columbia took over the stewardship of the site in 2006. This fall, it will undergo a comprehensive, museum-grade rehabilitation. The Simkins site is a tangible link to one of the most prominent civil rights leaders in South Carolina. By using her life as a lens through which we view historical inequality, the role of organizing and the power of protest, the home of Modjeska Simkins will once again become a center of engagement and action for the community.
- Citizenship and Activism
- Health Disparities
- Economic Discrimination and Self-Sufficiency
- Political Inequality and Action
Citizenship and Activism
Learn about strategies used during the Civil Rights movement to see how change was achieved, particularly when African Americans were still disenfranchised.
One of the earliest instances of Modjeska Simkins’ activism was while she worked with anti-tuberculosis efforts. African Americans were dying at a much higher rate than whites. Learn about Simkins' work at the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association and fundraising efforts for the Good Samaritan Waverly Hospital.
Economic Discrimination and Self-sufficiency
Simkins, working in conjunction with her brother at Victory Savings Bank, played a key role in lending money to farmers suffering during the "economic squeeze" led by white citizens council in Orangeburg and Clarendon counties. She also worked on outside fundraising efforts, including food and clothing drives. An entrepreneur, Simkins owned Motel Simbeth and also provided financial assistance to the Lighthouse and Informer newspaper. Learn about Simkins' work in these efforts.
Political Inequality and Action
Learn about Simkins' and the SC NAACP efforts in landmark cases, including Elmore v. Rice, which ended the all-white Democratic Primary in South Carolina.