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The Progressive Club, built in 1962-63, was a store and community center for Johns Island and other Sea Islands until it was badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The club had been founded in 1948 by civil rights activist Esau Jenkins (1910-1972), who worked to improve educational, political, economic, and other opportunities for blacks on the island and in the lowcountry.
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Jenkins, Septima Clark (1898-1987), and Bernice Robinson (1914-1994) founded the first Citizenship School in 1957 to encourage literacy and voter registration. Its success led to many similar schools across the South, called "the base on which the whole civil rights movement was built." The Progressive Club was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.