Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis




Public History

First Advisor

Bobby J Donaldson

Second Advisor

Wanda A Hendricks


In Columbia, South Carolina the literary activities that took place <“> Under the Capital Dome <”> shows a circle of readers deeply connected with their community and using literature to help shape their world views. This triad of a newspaper, reading group, and library attest to the intense literary engagement practiced by black middle-class Columbians and argues for a revision of long-standing theories about African American life in South Carolina during the 1930s. Through a deeper and more thorough investigation African American life in the South, we witness different mechanisms for coping with and challenging the system of oppression.

A number of factors contributed to the circle of readers which evolved in the city. The Palmetto Leader offered the city a nationally recognized black newspaper that provided a perspective missing from the white press. It supported the community's literary aspirations, discussed relevant issues, and advocated for the formation of social and political groups. In addition, it encouraged intellectualism as it published short stories and poems in addition to circulating reviews of newspaper columns and books.

The Brawley Book Club ensured that the purpose and goals of the newspaper were not in vain as they consumed the literature of the Harlem Renaissance through vigorous reading and lively discussions. The Brawley Club rallied alongside The Palmetto Leader for a public space for the dissemination reading materials to African Americans in the city. As a result, the Phillis Wheatley Branch library was established and acquired works by African American authors in addition to others. The role of the library surpassed its purpose for housing books and became a public space for cultivating progressive thoughts.