A civil rights activist McKaine, the NAACP and the all-Black Palmetto Teachers Association attacked the issue of salary inequities for Black educators. The average salary for a White elementary school teacher was $1,183/year. Blacks typically earned $713. For high school teachers Whites earned $1,445 and Blacks earned $850. McKaine methodically collected statewide data on salaries in preparation for the successful challenges in Charleston (Duvall)and Columbia (Thompson).
Modjeska Simkins introduced McKaine to John McCray, publisher of the Lighthouse and Informer newspaper, of which McKaine became associate editor in 1943. In response to efforts to continue excluding Blacks from political participation McCray and McKaine were major forces behind the establishment of the biracial, Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).