Student Profile Review: Boundary Pusher: Benjamin E Mays

Boundary Pusher: Benjamin E Mays
By Aniyah Ruth Lessane
9th Grade
Ashley Hall School

            Benjamin E Mays was born on August 1st, 1894 in Epworth, South Carolina. He was the youngest of eight children, and his parents were enslaved people.  He liked to learn, and refused to accept the limited resources he had. Because of this, he was accepted to Bates College, and earned his bachelor degree in 1920. After graduating, he was a pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church from 1921 to 1923. After serving as a pastor, he was a math teacher and debate coach at Morehouse. In 1925 he earned a masters degree, and in 1935 he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. In 1938, he published a book called The negro’s life, as reflected in His Literature. It was about how God is presented in the African American community and in Christianity. Around 1934 or 1935 Benjamin E Mays became the dean of the school of religion at Howard, which made him a distinguished administrator. He was the dean there until 1940, when he became the president at Morehouse. While he was teaching at Morehouse, one of his students Martin Luther King Jr., and they continued to be friends up until MLK died. Throughout his presidency, Benjamin E Mays had held numerous successful fundraisers an improved Morehouse’s faculty and overall academics. By the time of his death in 1984, he had published about 2000 articles and nine books.

SCHB Quality Education Profiles

Judge Julius Waties Waring

Judge Julius Waties Waring surmised, “Segregation is per se inequality,” in his dissenting opinion of the landmark school segregation case Briggs v. Elliott after the three-judge panel upon which he sat voted in favor of upholding educational inequality. Judge Waring was a native white Charlestonian who used his privilege and position in the court system to interpret laws fairly for all citizens. Although he was unpopular with other judges, politicians, and many white Charlestonians at the time, Judge Waring was undeterred in his fight for legal and social change. His trailblazing work especially impacted Black South Carolinians for the better.

Judge Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall was dedicated to justice and equality for all American citizens throughout his sixty-year career in law. The grandson of a formerly enslaved man, Marshall defied the odds by becoming the first African American to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. One of the biggest cases of his career happened right here in South Carolina: Briggs v. Elliott.

Esau Jenkins

Esau Jenkins was born to Peter and Eva Jenkins on Johns Island, South Carolina on July 3, 1910, and lived most of his life there. Upon completing the fourth grade, he began working on a boat out of Charleston. As a life-long learner, Jenkins continued his through night classes and correspondence courses, becoming a businessman and civil rights leader. Jenkins married Janie Elizabeth Jones in 1926, together they had thirteen children

Jenkins founded the Progressive Club in 1948, which encouraged local African Americans to register to vote, through the aid of Citizenship Schools, a topic he was educated in by his attendance at Highlander Folk Center in Tennessee. In 1959, he organized the Citizens’ Committee of Charleston County dedicated to the economic, cultural and political improvement of local African Americans. With a personal motto “Hate is Expensive, Love is Progress,” Jenkins uplifted his community, helping to found the Community Organization Federal Credit Union and serving on many local boards and committees.

Jenkins died in 1972, leaving behind a large family. After his death, many institutions, programs, and a bridge were named for him.



SCBHB Profile: Deacon James Garfield Smalls

Deacon James Garfield Smalls of St. Helena, South Carolina, is an important historical and cultural icon. At 98 years old, Deacon Smalls is a living walking archive of the many sacred songs—known as Gullah Spirituals—that were sung in Lowcountry praise houses. Smalls fondly remembers staying with his grandmother, who instilled in him the importance of praise house services.

As a young man, Deacon Smalls sang in various community choirs and later took on leadership roles in these musical units.He has been a deacon for 50 years at Bethesda Christian Fellowship Church on St. Helena Island. Deacon Smalls also served in the military during World War II, married and raised a family, worked civil service jobs, and managed a farm.

Deacon Smalls lives a life of dedication to community and exemplifies the dignity and expressive power of sacred music. He hopes his songs and inspirational words educate younger generations and challenge them to learn about their rich history.

Recently, Deacon Smalls was honored by the South Carolina Arts Commission, the governor, and the state legislature. He was cited as one of the most important active Gullah Geechee singers and cultural ambassadors.

The OVERground Railroad–SCBHB Green Book

The year is 1949. Your mother and father made the decision to move to Harlem, New York to join the ranks of other great African-American artists during the Harlem Renaissance. Plan a trip north from Charleston, SC. The map provides different options of places you can stop that would be in the Green Book. Once you have decided on the route for your family, share it with your class!

  • Charleston, SC
    • What time will you leave?
  • Fayetteville, NC
    • Are you hungry? Where can you eat?
      • Food
        • Verta’s Deli—3978 Main St.
        • Pig n’ Pats—4200 Avalon Rd.
        • Ivies—1820 Imperial Blvd.
    • We need to get gas then hop back on the road. Where is the service station?
      • Service Station
        • Valentine’s Service—2657 Western Ave.
        • Esson Service Station—3899 Imperial Blvd.
  • Richmond, VA
    • We are halfway there! Let’s get some rest. Is there a hotel or a tourist home (bed and breakfast) where we can stay?
      • Tourist Home
        • Ella Latimore—2700 Bull St.
      • Hotel
        • Browns—5505 Central Ave.
        • Edison Hotel—1904 Broad St.
  • Baltimore, MD
    • Lunchtime!
      • Ida Bells Grill—5748 Valley Creek Way
      • Heavenly Burgers—4844 Liberty Rd.
      • Bugle Buns—48449 North 110th St.
    • Service Station
      • Ross—90 Ford St.
      • Esson Service Station—80 Williamson St.
      • Miley and Miles—494 Freedom Blvd.
  • Philadelphia, PA
    • The car is overheating. We need a garage to fix it!
      • Garages
        • Talefero—4849 Emancipation Way
        • Uncle Jebs—3845 Reynolds Ave.
    • While we wait, choosing things to do around Philadelphia
      • Hair and Barber Shops
        • Hunter’s—2478 Pierre Ave
        • Jesse Mirror—4248 Looner St.
      • Convenience Store
        • C. Little’s Alley—2939 Alley Ave.
      • Book Store
        • Douglass’s Library—7787 Freedom Pkwy
    • 515 Malcolm X Boulevard

Works Cited

Green, Victor H. The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide. New York, NY: Victor H. Green & CO., 1949.


Genealogy: Digging Your Roots

Instructions: Fill in the circles with your family genealogy. At the top of each side, write in your family names—your grandmother’s maiden name and your grandfather’s last name—then at each level, place the first name of prior level’s parents.  Interview your family members to get further out on the branches. Use the space provided to take notes and to write down the city and states of origin for various family members. Use the instructions from the Oral History Activity to become the expert on your family’s ancestry!


  • Level 1. 
    • Put yourself in the middle, your mother’s name to the left, and your father’s name to the right
  • Level 2.
    • Your Grandparents
  • Level 3
    • Your Great Grandparents
  • Level 4
    • Your Great-Great-Grandparents

Book Review Corner–The Brave Escape of Ellen and William Craft

The Brave Escape of Ellen and William Craft
By: Donald B. Lemke

Illustrated by: Phil Miller, Tod Smith, and Charles Barnett III

Reviewed by Aniyah Ruth Lessane

Fifth Grader at Ashley Hall School for Girls, Charleston, South Carolina





In the book, The Brave Escape of Ellen and William Craft, a husband and wife, who are both enslaved, want to escape from their cruel master and the plantation they live and work on.

 The husband gets an idea to pretend that his wife is a white man because her complexion is light enough that she could pass as one. The book shows how difficult it was to run away, and how many dangers there were.You also get a peek at how their “masters” treated them and other slaves, which, in case you didn’t know, was terrible. It is also interesting how they came up with a brilliant plan that actually worked. It also shows the creative ways some people used to escape, even if they had to take extreme measures. This book
shows how far people were willing to go just to get off of the plantations and out
of the South—even if they got caught, at least they tried. If I were they, and I had
a chance to be free, I would take it, even if the risks were high.




Another book to check out about William and Ellen Craft is 5000 Miles to
Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight from Slavery by Dennis Fradin and Judith
Fradin, published by National Geographic Children’s Books.

Septima Poinesette Clark Speaks–Examples of an Oral History Interview

SCBHB Legend Septima P. Clark

Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) was born in Charleston, South Carolina to Peter Porcher Poinsette and Victoria Anderson. Clark attended small private schools and Avery Institute, getting a teacher’s certificate in 1916. She married Nerie Clark (1889-1925) of North Carolina, a navy cook in 1920; they had one surviving child Nerie Clark, Jr. (born 1925). Clark received her BA from Benedict College in 1942 and an MA from Hampton Institute in 1946. She taught in various schools throughout South Carolina, furthering the cause of civil rights. She helped fuel the growing civil rights movement in the American South, working with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Cotton, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. After retiring, Clark spent her remaining years active in a number of capacities, on the school board, in church work, involved in numerous feminist, African American and civil rights causes, creating day care centers, trying to get scholarships for students, and never retreating from her dedication to equal rights and opportunities for all. A recipient of honorary doctorates and with a highway, a daycare center, and an auditorium bearing her name, she died in Charleston and is buried in the Old Bethel Methodist Cemetery.

Here is an example of an oral history by Peter Wood, who interviewed South Carolina legend–Activist and Educator Septima Clark.

Peter Wood: Let’s go back to the very beginning. Tell me more about your mother.

Septima Clark: She was born in Charleston, but her mother died early and left three little girls. But they had two brothers working in a cigar factory down in Haiti, and they came up and took these three girls down with them. And my father, then, who had come out of slavery—he was on that Joel Poinsette farm, came out of slavery. He was on a Clyde Line Steamer. They met and got married. Then they came back to Charleston. I really appreciate my mother who was so courageous—talked back and let people know that she wasn’t going to stand for any foolishness.



Leave a comment below with some questions you would ask Ms. Clark!