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Tangled Roots

As the title of this series, Tangled Roots, implies, we are all interconnected, and this is especially true in the deeply rooted community of Johns Island. These shared bonds emerge from priorities based in faith, family and community; they reveal a resilient spirit of activism with a focus on egalitarianism.

The oral histories included as part of the Tangled Roots project are an intimate, and sometimes painful, look into the experiences, memories and personal stories of the five participants. New generations will view these oral histories inside classrooms to learn more about the history and importance of Johns Island from those who experienced it firsthand. Accompanying lesson plans are available for educators to download.

The Tangled Roots project was made possible by the generosity of Laura Stringfellow Wilson who selected Historic Charleston Foundation as a beneficiary of the Elizabeth H. Stringfellow Estate. Ms. Wilson designated that these funds from her mother’s estate be put towards a Johns Island focused program to benefit local students and schools.

Lesson Plans

Episode 1: J. Herman Blake

J. Herman Blake is serendipitously called back to his ancestral home on Johns Island to conduct an evaluation of the work of the Highlander Folk School. Blake's experiences on the island soon take him beyond the intended scope of his project, inevitably shaping his worldview and future contributions to society.

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Episode 1: J. Herman Blake

Episode 2: Bill Jenkins

Bill Jenkins, the son of legendary civil rights activists, Esau and Janie Jenkins, leaves Johns Island to chart his own in the US Air Force during the era of desegregation. While the institutional and individual racism he endures permeates every area of his life, he draws upon faith, family and Johns Island roots to persevere and eventually continue the work his father and mother began on the island.

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Episode 2: Bill Jenkins

Episode 3: Bill Saunders

Upon his return from the Korean War, Bill Saunders realizes that his rights as an American citizen are not as he perceived, leading him to dedicate his life to the pursuit of justice and human rights. Saunders's journey reflects the real life implications of the old adage that you must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to stand for anything.

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Episode 3: Bill Saunders

Episode 4: Minerva King

The daughter of legendary civil rights activist, J. Arthur Brown, Minerva Brown King is exposed to the civil rights icons in the late 1950s at the Highlander Folk School, including Esau Jenkins himself. Her formative interactions during these years inspire her own activism as a part of the student-led Kress Sit-In in 1960. It is then in the 1990s, when Minerva begins working on Johns Island, that her activist spirit is reignited and her mission to keep alive the rich history and civil rights legacy of Johns Island begins.

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Episode 4: Minerva King

Episode 5: Alma Lopez

At the age of sixteen, Alma Lopez immigrates with her family from Mexico to Johns Island, where she soon becomes a leading force within the hispanic community. Her selfless devotion to faith, family & community echoes the legacy of so many Johns Islanders that have come before her, further accentuating the resiliency and determination of a place and its people through the years.

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Episode 5: Alma Lopez