Bernice Violanthe Robinson was born in 1914 in Charleston, S.C. to James C. and Martha Elizabeth Robinson. Her father was a bricklayer and her mother a homemaker and seamstress. Robinson attended Simonton Elementary and Burke Industrial High School, graduating in 1931. She then relocated to Harlem, New York, where she worked in the garment district during the day and attended evening classes at the Poro School of Cosmetology. Upon Robinson's 1947 return to South Carolina, she opened a beauty shop and worked with the Charleston Branch of the NAACP as Secretary and Chairperson of Membership. In 1954, she attended a Highlander Folk School workshop in Tennessee, with her cousin Septima Clark. On the insistence of Clark and Esau Jenkins, businessman and founder of the Progressive Club, Robinson became the first Citizenship School teacher for adult education on John's Island, S.C. in 1957.
Robinson worked as a volunteer and part-time employee, teaching adults reading skills to enable them to vote. When Highlander transferred the program to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Robinson stayed with Highlander holding Voter Registration and Political Education workshops in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and other southern states. In 1963, she worked as a Field Secretary for the Political Organization of the First Congressional District in South Carolina. The next year she joined SCLC as a Field Supervisor for Adult Education and instructor of reading, and Director of Educational Workshops for the Highlander Research & Education Center. Robinson left the SCLC in 1970 to work for the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers (SCCFW), as Supervisor of the Volunteers-In-Service-To-American (VISTA) program. In 1972 and 1974, she ran unsuccessfully for the South Carolina House of Representatives, being the first African American women to run for office in South Carolina. Robinson returned to the SCCFW in 1975 as the Director of Migrant Day Care. In 1979, she became a Loan and Relocation Officer for the Charleston County Community Development Department, a position she held until retirement in 1982. Robinson died in Charleston, September 3, 1994.