The Progressive Club Sea Island Center is significant for its role as a Citizenship School and for its association with events and persons important in the Civil Rights Movement. The Club building is also significant for its association with the development of continued adult education, social history, politics, ethnic heritage, recreation, and commerce for the African American community of the Sea Islands beginning with the building’s construction in 1963 until the death of the Club’s founder Esau Jenkins in 1972. The structure and site served as a vital community center, providing a home for the Progressive Club’s legal and financial assistance program, adult education program, dormitory lodging, and as a community recreational, child care, meeting place and grocery store. The building is the only remaining structure of the era built to house a “Citizenship School” in South Carolina where adult education classes and workshops enabled African American citizens to register, vote, and become aware of the political processes of their communities. While the first citizenship school class at the Progressive Club site was held in January 1957, the Citizenship Schools became a model for Civil Rights leaders for similar efforts throughout the South during the late 1950s and continued as classes and workshops at the Progressive Club well into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The workshops, classes, and folk festivals hosted by the Progressive Club were either attended or facilitated by people who were later catapulted to the national stage in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Listed in the National Register October 24, 2007.
The Progressive Club