During February, Everything Co-op celebrates Black History Month by focusing on ASALH’s (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) theme. The 2020 theme is African Americans and the Vote. Therefore, it was quite fitting to bring David Thompson, President of Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation back to Everything Co-op to discusses the efforts of cooperatives to prepare and register African Americans to vote. David Thompson has conducted extensive research for his upcoming book, Cooperatives and the Civil Rights Movement. Through his research for the book, he has learned a great deal of valuable information regarding the involvement of cooperatives in efforts to get African Americans registered.
David traces early efforts of cooperative involvement in voter registration to the “Progressive Club,” a cooperative that promoted voter registration, and trained local Black residents to pass the voter registration test. The co-op would ultimately share the proponents of its program with the Highlander Center, in Tennessee, where Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Amb. Andrew Young, and many other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement would be trained.
When reflecting upon the influence of the Progressive Club, David remarked; “I think it’s rather lovely that this tiny little co-op, on this small Island off the coast of South Carolina, was where voter registration classes took their first form,” and ended up registering about 1 million voters in the South using the same kind of program.
David Thompson, has worked for national cooperative organizations of the United States, Britain and Japan as well as the United Nations. He served as Vice President of the National Cooperative Business Association and Regional Director of the National Cooperative Bank’s Western Office. He specializes in funding the capital needs of the cooperative development sector; and nonprofit and cooperative housing. He was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in Washington D.C. in May 2010, and continues to work with cooperatives.