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AfriGeneas Schools, Organizations, Churches and Institutions Forum

Jenkins Orphanage SC 1891-1937

"In the name of all that is just and honest": Reverend Daniel J. Jenkins, the Jenkins Orphanage, and black leadership in Charleston, South Carolina, 1891--1937
by Johnson, Nathan, M.A., University of South Carolina, 2009 , 73 pages; AAT 1463737
Abstract (Summary)
"During the Jim Crow era, black ministers and educators promoted self-help theories as a means of rising above white supremacy. Rather than wait for southern whites to restore their rights, these black leaders took the initiative. They mobilized entire communities, seeking to improve their condition through religion, education, and hard work. No exception to the rule, Reverend Daniel J. Jenkins organized parishioners at the Fourth Baptist Church in 1891 to help him open the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. The white-controlled city government prohibited black children from enrolling in its all-white orphanages and refused to fund a separate facility for them.

The keen leadership skills of Reverend Jenkins ensured the survival of the Jenkins Orphanage. He won the support of prestigious white Charlestonians, as well as the gratitude of the city's poorest black citizens, enabling the orphanage to grow at a quick rate. His sharp business sense and aptitude for fundraising led to the creation of a traveling band, a large-scale farm, and a print shop, among other commercial services in connection with the orphanage. Single parents and poor families heard about the orphanage throughout the state--in some cases, as far away as New Jersey--and requested applications for their children.

Yet, the Jenkins Orphanage constantly faced the threat of closure. Reverend Jenkins found himself battling inherent racism and dealing with nominal funding from local whites. In efforts to appease whites, he often took an accommodating stance on racial issues, but, in turn, faced the criticism of other black leaders. His educational programs, which focused on industrial and agricultural training, ranked among the most contested aspects of his institution.

Scholarship on the Jenkins Orphanage has focused on the significance of the band, until now. Although this thesis not a complete history, it attempts to present the complexities of Reverend Jenkins and his orphanage in order for historians to better understand Reverend Jenkins's strategies for racial uplift.

The research compiled in this thesis will be used in the future development of a permanent exhibit at the Daniel Joseph Jenkins Institute for Children."


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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