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Charleston NAACP chapter: leading the local movement for equality and social justice for more than 100 years

Charleston NAACP chapter: leading the local movement for equality and social justice for more than 100 years
February 2022
WRITER: 

Learn how the Charleston chapter was founded





From top left: National founder W.E.B. DuBois, local founder Edwin Harleston, former vice president of the local chapter, Septima Clark current first vice president,  and the Reverend Joseph A. Darby

As America entered the war in Europe in 1917, another equally important battle began in Charleston in February with the founding of the local branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Its first president was Edwin Augustus Harleston (b. 1882), who had associated at Atlanta University with W. E. B. DuBois (a founder of the national organization, which launched February 12, 1909). After Atlanta, Harleston, an Avery Normal Institute graduate, trained at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

When he returned to Charleston in 1913, he was excluded from the arts scene but went on to lead one of the NAACP’s first victories in the city—overturning the law forbidding Black teachers to teach Black children. It was won in 1920 by a campaign that involved teachers such as Septima Clark. Though Harleston died in 1931, the movement grew. After Clark, the vice president of the local chapter, was fired by the Charleston County School board in 1956 for her membership in the NAACP, she assumed a national role in the fight for civil rights.



Today, the Charleston NAACP chapter is led by president Dot S. Scott and first vice president the Reverend Joseph A. Darby. The annual Freedom Fund Banquet, which serves as a fundraiser and an awards ceremony, is held in February to mark the founding of the national organization and the local chapter.