When an African-American girl was born in Columbia at the end of the 19th century, her parents had no way of knowing the child in their hands would become a civil rights legend.
Modjeska Simkins was born in 1899, when anti-black feeling was strong in South Carolina. She rose to prominence as a fierce fighter of injustice and one of the founders of the S.C. NAACP. She brought her passion to bear on desegregating schools when she helped draft the Clarendon County lawsuit, Brigg vs. Elliott, that became a part of Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954.
“There was no task too monumental for Mrs. Simkins to take on,’’ said Rep. Alma Byrd, a Richland Democrat in 1996.
Simkins kept that fire up until her death in 1992.
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“I’m 92, but I feel like I’m 27,” she joked on her 92nd birthday. “I tell the folks, ‘Don’t start nothing, ‘cause I ain’t near dead.’”