Victoria DeLee was a South Carolina civil rights activist leader who fought for equality for three decades. She launched a campaign for Congress in 1971 as reported by the New York Amsterdam News.
At the young age of 12, DeLee witnessed a lynching and from that moment on her crusade for civil rights began. In the 1940s, she fought for rights to register to vote despite getting repeated death threats. She lived her life by three words, “unbought, unbossed, and unsold.”
DeLee describes her attempt to register to vote in Dorchester County, near Charleston, S.C., in 1947, she recalled the registrar asked her to read an entire book. When she finished it, she said, ” ‘Give me my registration certificate.’ I said, ‘If you don’t — I says — ‘Mister, it’s goin’ to be trouble.’ ” She registered to vote in 1947 and was the first black person in her community who had a voter registration certificate.
DeLee participated in civil rights marches, including the 1963 March on Washington, and was friends with Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1964, she began efforts to integrate South Carolina’s segregated public school system by trying to enroll her children in all-white schools. To avoid being hit by bullets, she along with her children slept on mattresses on the floor. She often received threats by mail from the KKK warning her that booby traps would be set in her home and car.
DeLee was a candidate in 1971 for the 1st Congressional District. She ran on the United Citizens’ Party of South Carolina ticket. She also served on the S.C. advisory board of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.