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Local civil rights leader Esau Jenkins to be part of new Smithsonian

Source: Live 5 News Source: Live 5 News
JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) -

On Saturday, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC will open its 19th museum, the African American History and Culture museum.

Esau Jenkins, a local civil rights leader from Johns Island, will be featured in a permanent exhibit on the segregation era.

The museum’s director hopes that it will help bring to light the history of the culture, art, and influential leaders

“You get to remember all these people who have been left out of history, therefore their lives matter. their stories matter,” Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture said. “The other thing you do, is this is framed in a way that says, this is everybody's story. It's not black people's story, it's the story of America.”

Hundreds of Lowcountry students joined Jenkins family on Thursday to honor the civil rights leader's legacy and the patriarch's new place in history at the new Smithsonian.

"It represents all the African American communities of stories that are untold,” Jenkins’ granddaughter Eldrina Jones said. “We look at them as unsung heroes. I think it's a grand celebration to be on the national stage at the Smithsonian." 

The exhibit will include the story of Jenkins and the Progressive Club, a school that developed adult education, politics and more in the African American Community.

It was one of the late Jenkins’ many contributions to civil rights movement.

"From the Progressive Club to the CO Federal Credit Union to the health care system, they played major roles,” Jones said. “They had businesses
in the city where there was a need, they made sure it was met."

Part of the exhibit will even feature Jenkins VW minibus, which he used to take children to school and islanders to work. 

During the trip, Jenkins would teach them how to read the section of the Constitution necessary to register to vote.

"Some people say why take a couple of panels, what difference does that make? But the difference was the work that was done in the bus,” Jenkins said.

Family and locals remember that work being guided by love, faith and progress.

"He was always known for love is progress and hate is expensive and that's going to always be,” Jones said. “The progression hasn't stopped. it didn't stop with them. and it will continue on with us and everyone in the community."

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