2025 Marion Street2025 Marion Street
Modjeska Monteith Simkins House
This cottage-style residence, built by 1895, was the home of human rights activist Modjeska Monteith Simkins from 1934 until her death in 1992. Born in Columbia on December 5, 1899, into a society that legally dispossessed women and people of color of their civil liberties, Simkins fought for equal rights for seven decades.
A graduate of Benedict College, she taught at Booker T. Washington High School until her marriage to Andrew W. Simkins. From 1931 until 1942, she served as Director of Negro Work for the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association, a position which gave her firsthand exposure to the issues most African Americans faced in South Carolina—namely discrimination in the form of unequal and even denied access to quality education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and the ballot.
In 1941, she was elected State Secretary of the NAACP’s South Carolina Conference of Branches, a position she held until 1957. In that role, she provided legal and logistical support on major civil rights lawsuits arguing for equal teacher pay (Duval v. Seigneus and Thompson v. Gibbes et al.), the end of the all-white Democratic Primary (Elmore v. Rice), desegregation of schools (Briggs v. Elliott as part of Brown V. Board of Education), and desegregation of public transportation (Flemming v. SCE&G). During this period, civil rights leaders, including attorney Thurgood Marshall, regularly stayed at her home. After being forced out of SC NAACP leadership over conflicting ideas about strategy, she served as public relations director of the Richland County Citizens Committee, which focused broadly on civil rights: the integration of public schools, parks, city buses and the state mental health institution; the fight against police brutality and corruption; urban renewal, which threatened black home ownership; and the plight of poor women . Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, Simkins also championed women’s equality and environmental protections and ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for public office. Today the site is owned by the City of Columbia and stewarded by Historic Columbia.
There are several other sites across Columbia with ties to Simkins. These include two Victory Savings Bank branches, the Lighthouse & Informer newspaper building, the Waverly-Good Samaritan hospital and the Township Auditorium.