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Bernice Robinson papers

 Collection
Identifier: AMN 1018

Collection Overview

Correspondence, minutes, financial documents, literary productions, printed materials, photographic materials, and audio recordings document Bernice V. Robinson's role (late 1950s-1980s) as a teacher and social activist for voter education, adult literacy, and child development, with other materials (1960s-1980s) relating to her personal, religious, and social work. Biographical papers include transcripts of her oral history interview, detailing her life and family; race relations in Charleston; work in New York City; differences in segregation in the South and North; her work with the Charleston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and with her cousin Septima Clark, Esau Jenkins, the Progressive Club, and Highlander Folk School, educating adults for voter registration and establishing schools on John's, Wadmalaw, and Edisto Islands; working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Cotton, Hosea Williams, Bayard Rustin, Medgar Evers, and James Bevel; working for a variety of other civil rights related and social welfare programs; and her unsuccessful political career. The second series, Works, contains copies of speeches on a number of topics. Her correspondence includes letters from social activist and photographer Marion Palfi (1963); Guy and Candie Carawan (1988); Andrew Young, Jr. (1977) and others.

A series on her professional affiliations is divided into 18 sub-series documenting Robinson's work with Highlander Folk School, later Highlander Research and Education Center, (1957-1988, bulk 1957-1960s), with Myles Horton correspondence (1957-1988); materials from Highlander sponsored programs, including the Southwide Voter Education Internship Project, (1965); the South Carolina Citizenship School (1957-1960). Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) papers (1964-1969) include data regarding its history, structure and projects--with tributes regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. SCLC Citizenship Education Training Program papers (1963-1969) contain reports, workbooks, and materials used by Robinson in teaching reading and voter registration. Papers (1967-1970) on the South Carolina branch of the Voter Education Project, Inc., sponsored by the Southern Regional Council, include reports (1965-1966), booklets and charts. Materials (1964-1970) regarding Robinson's involvement with the Community Action Program, of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) detail a three month Community Action Technicians Training Program (CAT/CAP), in Madison, Wisconsin (1967); with post-CAT papers (1967-1968), as well. The South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers (SCCFW)/Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program papers (1966-1972) contain grant proposals, publications regarding its inception, structure, and reports (1970-1972) from Robinson's territory of Edisto, John's, Wadmalaw and Yonges Islands and Williamsburg County to supervisors and James E. Clyburn, Executive Director. Files on day care and child development organizations document the creation of, and Robinson's directorship (1971-1973) of the Yonges Island Day Care Center. Civil Rights Movement Oral History Project papers (of the Institutional Development and Economic Affairs Service [IDEAS]), include grant proposals, and carbons of letters, requesting interviews.

Robinson's political papers include correspondence and campaign materials regarding her candidacy to the South Carolina House of Representatives (1972, 1974); and campaign materials regarding Charles Pug Ravenel's unsuccessful bid the for United States Senate, and Robinson's work (1978) as field coordinator. Her church papers include minutes and correspondence, from the Board of Christian Social Concerns and the Program Council of the United Methodist Church; materials regarding Old Bethel United Methodist Church, Charleston, South Carolina; and speeches given at United Methodist Women conferences. Other materials documenting Robinson's association with African American and women's associations include those regarding the Charleston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1955-1974, bulk 1970s); and papers regarding her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho.

Audio-visual materials include reel to reel tapes, cassette user copies and transcripts of speeches for a lecture series, A decade of civil rights history, 1960-1970: the movement as viewed by participants at Loop College, Chicago, IL (1970), featuring Fannie Lou Hamer, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, Rosa Parks, and John Lewis; with recordings for Guy Carawan's and Dr. Lawrence D. Reddick's speeches. The series also includes original and photocopied black and white photographs of Robinson and unidentified friends and family members, some originals from Avery's photographic collections. Miscellaneous and oversize materials include a small amount of photocopied newspaper clippings on various, mostly political, topics, and a SCLC newsletter SoulForce.

Note: Part of Robinson's oral history is published in Refuse to stand silently by: an oral history of grass roots social activism in America, edited by Eliot Wigginton. Bernice Robinson is interviewed in the documentary film, You got to move: stories of change in the South.

Dates

  • 1920-1989
  • Majority of material found within 1950-1989

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

Bernice Violanthe Robinson was born in 1914 in Charleston, South Carolina to James C. and Martha Elizabeth Robinson. Her father was a bricklayer and her mother a homemaker and seamstress. Robinson attended Simonton Elementary and Burke Industrial High School, graduating in 1931. She then relocated to Harlem, New York, where she worked in the garment district during the day and attended evening classes at the Poro School of Cosmetology.

Upon Robinson's 1947 return to South Carolina, she opened a beauty shop and worked with the Charleston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as Secretary and Chairperson of Membership. In 1954, she attended a Highlander Folk School workshop in Tennessee, with her cousin Septima Clark. On the insistence of Clark and Esau Jenkins, businessman and founder of the Progressive Club, Robinson became the first Citizenship School teacher for adult education on John's Island, South Carolina in 1957. Robinson worked as a volunteer and part-time employee, teaching adults reading skills to enable them to vote. When Highlander transferred the program to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Robinson stayed with Highlander holding Voter Registration and Political Education workshops in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and other southern states. In 1963, she worked as a Field Secretary for the Political Organization of the First Congressional District in South Carolina. The next year she joined SCLC as a Field Supervisor for Adult Education and instructor of reading, and Director of Educational Workshops for the Highlander Research and Education Center. Robinson left the SCLC in 1970 to work for the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers (SCCFW), as Supervisor of the Volunteers-In-Service-To-American (VISTA) program. In 1972 and 1974, she ran unsuccessfully for the South Carolina House of Representatives, being the first African American women to run for office in South Carolina. Robinson returned to the SCCFW in 1975 as the Director of Migrant Day Care. In 1979, she became a Loan and Relocation Officer for the Charleston County Community Development Department, a position she held until retirement in 1982.

Robinson died in Charleston, September 3, 1994.

Extent

6.75 linear feet (15 archival boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Bernice Violanthe Robinson (1914-1994) was born in Charleston, South Carolina to James C. and Martha Elizabeth Robinson. She was a cosmetologist, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Secretary and Chairperson of Membership, Highlander's first Citizenship School teacher for adult education on John's Island, South Carolina. She held political education and voter registration workshops in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and other southern states for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She worked as a Field Secretary for the Political Organization of the First Congressional District in South Carolina. Robinson was SCLC's Field Supervisor for Adult Education and instructor of reading, and Director of Educational Workshops for the Highlander Research and Education Center. Robinson worked for the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers (SCCFW), as Supervisor of the Volunteers-In-Service-To-American (VISTA) program. She also ran unsuccessfully for the South Carolina House of Representatives, being the first African American women to run for office in South Carolina. Robinson returned to the SCCFW as the Director of Migrant Day Care. She then became a Loan and Relocation Officer for the Charleston County Community Development Department, a position she held until retirement in 1982.

The collection details Bernice V. Robinson's role as a teacher and social activist for voter education, adult literacy, and child development; with other materials (1960s-1980s) relating to her personal, religious, and social work. Biographical papers include transcripts of her oral history interview. A series of Robinson's works contains copies of speeches on a number of topics. Her correspondence includes letters from social activist and photographer Marion Palfi (1963); Guy and Candie Carawan (1988); Andrew Young, Jr. (1977) and others. A series on her professional affiliations documents her political, educational, and advocacy activities throughout her life. Robinson's political papers include correspondence and campaign materials regarding her candidacy to the South Carolina House of Representatives (1972, 1974); Her church papers include minutes and correspondence, from the Board of Christian Social Concerns and the Program Council of the United Methodist Church; materials regarding Old Bethel United Methodist Church, Charleston, South Carolina; and speeches given at United Methodist Women conferences. Other materials documenting Robinson's association with African American and women's associations include those regarding the Charleston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1955-1974, bulk 1970s); and papers regarding her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho. Audio-visual materials include reel to reel tapes, cassette copies and transcripts of speeches for a lecture series, A decade of civil rights history, 1960-1970: the movement as viewed by participants at Loop College, Chicago, IL (1970). The series also includes photographs of Robinson and unidentified friends and family members. Miscellaneous and oversize materials include newspaper clippings on various, mostly political, topics, and a SCLC newsletter SoulForce.

Collection Arrangement

1. Biographical Papers

2. Works: Writings, Talks, Lectures and Speeches

3. Correspondence

4. Affiliations

5. Booklets and Newspaper Clippings

6. Audio Visual Materials

7. Oversize Materials

Processing Information

Processed by Georgette Mayo, April 2006

Encoded by Melissa Bronheim, July 2010

Edited by Aaron Spelbring, May 2013

Funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supported the processing of this collection.

Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Title
Inventory of the Bernice Robinson Papers, 1920 - 1989 AMN 1018
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Processed by: Georgette Mayo; machine-readable finding aid created by: Melissa Bronheim
Description rules
DACS
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English
Sponsor
Funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Revision Statements

  • 05, 2013: Revised by Aaron Spelbring

Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

Contact:
125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States
843-953-7608