It was a small cooperative store on a little-known island off the coast of South Carolina. During the harshest days of the civil rights struggle, embattled black leaders came through its doors seeking inspiration. Among the legendary leaders who visited the co-op were Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton, Conrad Brown, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Bernice Reagon, Cleveland Sellers, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, and many others.
The co-op was called the Progressive Club. Johns Island is one of the Sea Islands, home to the unique Gullah people who had retained a lot of their African cultural heritage. In the 1940s, Johns Island was remote and a nine-hour ferry ride to Charleston, S.C. After WWII, bridges slowly began to connect Johns Island to the mainland.