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Today In Charleston History: August 26

1773 – American Revolution – Foundations.

Thomas Powell, acting editor of the Gazette, published the proceedings of the Council without their permission and was arrested. His lawyer, Edward Rutledge was able to convince the justice of the peace, Rawlins Lowndes, to secure Powell’s release. Rutledge declared his pleasure “in being called forth as the Defender of the Liberty of the Subject.”

The case became hot political issue which brought together several powerful men and families in defense of Powell, forming a core group of radical thinkers – the Rutledges, Middletons, Pinckneys and Draytons.

 August 26, 1935. JENKINS BANDS

Time magazine published an article about the Jenkins Orphanage Band in Charleston. To learn the entire story (and all the errors in this article), read my bookDoin’ the Charleston.

The end of the War between the States (or the War of the Rebellion) brought freedom to tall, blue-black Daniel Joseph Jenkins, born a slave in 1861and soon orphaned. Turned off a plantation in Charleston, S.C. he said: “I took God for my guide. I got a job on a farm and two pounds of meat and a quart of molasses a week to live on.” One day he came upon half a dozen shoeless, shivering pickaninnies huddled by a railroad track. He gave them his last dollar.

Daniel Jenkins became a Baptist minister. Soon Preacher Jenkins preached a sermon on “The Harvest Is Great but the Laborers Are Few” persuading his congregation to help him found an orphanage for poor black moppets. That was 1891. Daniel Jenkins proceeded to rid Charleston of roaming, thieving “Wild Children:” In two buildings in the city and farms and schools outside it, he had cared for more than 536 orphans at a time, today less than 300 in his charge. Of the thousands of Negroes turned out by the Jenkins Orphanage at 14, he claims that less than ten have ended up in jail. Grizzled, black-garbed and ailing at 74, Daniel Jenkins is Charleston’s No. 1 Negro citizen, prosperous enough to have been touched for a loan by a white Charlestonian in the early days of the War. The fame & fortune of the Jenkins Orphanage, however, did not come from piety alone. Taking a leaf from Booker T. Washington who successfully raised money through his Tuskegee Singers, Daniel Jenkins early began to exploit small Negroes playing band music

Having on his hands a number of undernourished, rickety and tuberculosis youngsters, Jenkins optimistically decided “My children’s lungs would get strong by blowing wind instruments.” He obtained some battered horns, organized a band which he sent North in 1893 to play on street corners for whatever passersby would give. So successful was the band that is has never since missed a trip. In 1905 it played in Teddy Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. It appeared at the St. Louis Exposition, the Anglo-American Exposition in London. It has toured the U.S. from coast to coast, played in Paris, Berlin, Rome, London, Vienna. Divided into sections as the kids grew older and learned to play better, the Jenkins Band once had five units simultaneously on tour. Today, its 125 players, age 10 to 18, earn from $75,000 to 100,000 a year for the Orphanage. Once boys & girls used to play together in the band, but says Daniel Jenkins, “They got too fresh and I had to separate them.” Now the girls play in their own bands or sing to the boys’ accompaniment. Each band-section is chaperoned and guided by a ministerial graduate of the Orphanage. Boys wear dark blue uniforms and girls wore simple print dresses.

Jenkins Orphanage Band, Author's Collection

Jenkins Orphanage Band, Author’s Collection

In winter, Jenkins bands play in schools, churches, halls throughout the South and West.  In the summer they head North. This year 65 of 125 bandsters were chosen, divided into Bands No. 1 and No. 2. Last week Band No. 1, with twenty-one year old Freddy Bennett as leader, played in Providence, R. I., moved to Hartford, Conn. Under the guidance of William Blake, who has been with the Orphanage for 38 years, Band No. 2 had been in Saratoga, N.Y. where the horse-racing season opened early this month [TIME, Aug. 12]. Day & night at the race track, at baseball games on the spa’s Broadway the hard-working youngsters played spirituals, sweet ballads and hot arrangements of tunes like Dinah and Sweet Sue on their rusty cornets, trombones, French horns, drums. Bystanders were especially taken with Band No. 2’s impish 12-year-old leader who juggled his baton and shimmied vigorously.

Rich old Rev. Daniel Joseph Jenkins in his institution’s Northern headquarters in New York’s Harlem, scrutinized detailed weekly reports of his band’s doings. Collections in Saratoga, even with five youngsters passing hats and wheedling coins from bystanders, were good only when someone with a kind heart produced a windfall. Last week Daniel Jenkins sent Band No. 2 back to Charleston, where No. 1 would rejoin it, playing its way southward by way of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond and Durham. Daniel Jenkins is soon returning South. “I ain’t got long to stay here,” he cackles. “But I’ll carry on till Jesus calls me home.”

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