The Avery Institute of Afro American History & Culture
James Eber Campbell was born in Charleston, South Carolina on July 31, 1925. He received his primary and secondary education at Immaculate Conception School in Charleston, and the Voorhees Normal and Industrial School in Denmark, South Carolina respectively. Mr. Campbell served in the Pacific Theater during World War II after becoming a Marine in 1943. After his stint in the military, Mr. Campbell attended Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland where he earned a degree in English with a Theater minor in 1953. After graduation, he taught elementary school in Baltimore, helped found the Arena Players Theater Company, and became an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement.
After relocating to New York City to teach public school in 1964, Mr. Campbell collaborated with Malcolm X in the creation of the Organization of Afro-American Unity's Liberation School. During this time, he also traveled to Mississippi and Georgia to register voters for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Mr. Campbell earned a master's degree in Educational Administration and Supervision in 1972 from the Bank Street College of Education in New York, and during that time, he was also a contributing editor to Freedomways, the leading African American theoretical, political and cultural journal founded by W.E.B. Du Bois. Mr. Campbell taught English in Tanzania from 1973 to 1982 and returned to New York as a school administrator until he retired in 1991.
Mr. Campbell moved back to Charleston, South Carolina after retirement and continued his involvement in local political and educational issues for the next 30 years. He served as the state coordinator of the South Carolina Algebra Project, an advisory board member for the School of Education at the College of Charleston and chaired the Education Committee for the Charleston branch of NAACP. He has served as the national co-chairman of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and has led a socialist education project in Charleston.
In 2019 the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture renamed its Student Leadership Award to honor James E. Campbell. The Award is a $6,000 travel and research stipend divided among 10 student-leaders who recognize the importance of social justice activism.