The Charleston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, has been an influential institution in the Charleston Community for the past sixty-nine years under the leadership of thirty-one presidents. The Chapter was chartered as Beta Alpha Sigma on November 15, 1940, in Charleston, South Carolina by ten charter members and four special initiates.
National Programs were suspended in the 1940’s during World War II. However, this did not deter the chapter from focusing on the needs of the local community. It was during this time, the first Jabberwock was held, the first Teen-Lift was organized, support was provided to tuberculosis patients at Pinehaven Sanatorium, the first scholarships were awarded, the first newsletter was created and the second South Atlantic Regional Conference was hosted by the Charleston Alumnae Chapter.
1950s - 1960s
In addition to the programs previously mentioned, the chapter created other successful programs during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Some of the programs included the Children's Theatre and drama contests in which elementary school students participated. The sorority also made a significant impact on the community with job opportunities clinics. Consultants from the local community and area colleges offered their assistance with these clinics.
Beginning in the 1970’s, the chapter participated in the National Teen-Lift Bus Tour to southern states and sponsored an exchange student from Raleigh, North Carolina. The 1970 National Convention theme emphasized the importance of Black Heritage. Therefore, the Charleston Alumnae Chapter, with the assistance of Soror Harriet Simpson, a local educator, was instrumental in the decision made by the state of South Carolina to incorporate Black Studies into the curriculum in public schools. The book Eye Witness: The Negro in American History was adopted as the text.
Another exemplary project in the 1970s, in the area of mental health, was the creation of a volunteer program at the Coastal Center in Ladson, South Carolina. The Coastal Center is a residential facility for the developmentally disabled. Sorors participated in summer camp activities and offered assistance in the residential area on the weekends. The sorority received an award of recognition for 1000+ hours of service.
In 1974, Lambda Omicron became the first black Greek-letter organization to be established on the campus of the College of Charleston under the leadership of the Charleston Alumnae Chapter. The Charleston Alumnae chapter hosted the seventh South Atlantic Regional Conference in 1974.
In 1976, the chapter focused on educational development. A tutorial program began with a two-fold emphasis on improving SAT test scores and providing career guidance seminars for students and parents. During the same year, Charleston Alumnae worked to establish Nu Sigma on the campus of Baptist College (now Charleston Southern University).
In 1979, the chapter participated in a 3.5 million dollar HUD grant to build and renovate houses in the Union Heights community. Counseling services on budgeting, home maintenance, nutrition and home management were offered to the residents of that community. Sorors also participated in The White House Conference on Families. Teen-Lift participants were exposed to the cultural activities of the Spoleto Arts Festival. The chapter sponsored an art show, which also featured local artists, some of whom were members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
1980s - 1990s
The 1980’s and 1990’s brought economic development to the forefront with seminars on investing and financial planning. School America was established and sorors read to children in malls and parks. The chapter became active in Local, State and National politics. Voter education and voter registration workshops were held. The Deltas of Charleston Alumnae and Omegas of Mu Alpha Chapter sponsored a joint leadership seminar. The topics discussed were leadership and leader responsibilities, base of power and influence, the judicial system of South Carolina, communications, and parliamentary procedures. The East Cooper Tutorial Center was initiated and served the Mt. Pleasant community for eight years. With the funds secured from a grant, the sorority helped residents in the East Cooper community who were affected by Hurricane Hugo. Funds were also used to help furnish the homes of three families in that area.
Other activities in the 1980’s and 1990’s included a Black Health Showcase, adult literacy programs, the building of a Habitat House, the hosting of the 18th South Atlantic Regional Conference, and the initiation of a walking club by the Physical and Mental Health Committee.
During the administration of the 21st National President, Soror Marcia L. Fudge, Esquire, the Delta Academy was introduced as a National Program. The Charleston Alumnae Chapter embraced the program in the 1997-1998 fiscal year with fifteen young ladies, ranging in ages from 11 to 14. The Academy has grown to 40 participants at three different sites in Charleston County. The young ladies participating in the Academy are exposed to cultural activities, such as the theater and afternoon teas. Other Academy activities include golfing lessons, community service, etiquette lessons and educational enrichment seminars.
Into the new Millennium
In the year 2000, Charleston Alumnae Chapter embraced the opportunity to serve as chair of the first Tri-County Founders Day Celebration. The celebration included Berkeley, Charleston, North Charleston, Summerville Alumnae Chapters, as well as, Lambda Omicron and Nu Sigma Collegiate Chapters. Other Chapter highlights on the verge of the new millennium included the establishment of the first Charleston Alumnae Chapter step team, the Miss Jabberwock Pageant, and the 60th Anniversary Celebration of service to the Charleston Community. Continuing the legacy of leadership the Chapter President and Vice President attended a Presidential Retreat in Rocky Mount, North Carolina hosted by Soror Mary Sutton, Regional Director.
The chapter has always planned and executed the Five-Point Program Thrust mandated from Grand Chapter, as well as addressing the concerns of the local community. Through innovative programs and projects, the chapter continues to emphasize community service and stress the importance of academics and scholarship. Annual scholarship awards have increased from $50.00 to $10,000.00 per year.
From the ten members in 1940 to the one hundred seventy-two members in 2001, optimism, faith, skill and perseverance have nurtured the seeds of scholarship, public service and social welfare. Today, the Charleston Alumnae Chapter looks to the future with confidence that her efforts to enlighten, enable, and uplift humanity will spread and continue to grow.
Juanita Smith Jordan