civil rights

Sissiertta Jones
Napoleon Sarony/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institite

In August of 2013, Walter Edgar's Journal featured a conversation with Maureen D. Lee, about her biography Sissieretta Jones, "The Greatest Singer of Her Race," 1868-1933 (USC Press, 2012), which told the forgotten story of the pioneering African American diva whose remarkable career paved the way for many who followed her.

hoto from the University of South Carolina's Motion Image Research Collection.
Photo from the University of South Carolina's Motion Image Research Collection.

At the University of South Carolina, the Moving Image Research Collection has established a reputation as one of the top film archives in the country. Curator Greg Wilsbacher says Newsfilm Collections at USC has received some notable donations over the years—including footage from the United States Marine Corps. But it all started with a donation in 1980 from the Fox Corporation, containing countless hours of newsreels and outtakes from the turn of the 20th Century.

Remembering Friendship Nine Member James Wells

Jul 10, 2018
Friendship Nine member James Wells
SCETV

57 years ago, nine young African-American students of Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill were arrested for attempting to desegregate the all-white lunch counter at the McCrory's variety store. One of those students was James Wells. He died Sunday, July 8th in his hometown of Rock Hill. The decision Wells and the other young protesters made, following their arrests, would help shape the civil rights movement throughout the South. 

Richard T. Greener, circa 1900; by J. H. Cunningham. In The Colored American, February 24, 1900.
The Colored American, February 24, 1900 / Library of Congress/Chronicling America

Richard Theodore Greener (1844–1922) was a renowned black activist and scholar. The first black graduate of Harvard College, he became the first black faculty member at the University of South Carolina, during Reconstruction. He was even the first black US diplomat to a predominately-white country, serving in Vladivostok, Russia. A notable speaker and writer for racial equality, he also served as a dean of the Howard University School of Law and as the administrative head of the Ulysses S. Grant Monument Association. Yet he died in obscurity, his name barely remembered.

S.C. State University logo
S.C. State

Since its founding in 1896, South Carolina State University has provided vocational, undergraduate, and graduate education for generations of African Americans. Now the state’s flagship historically black university, it achieved this recognition after decades of struggling against poverty, inadequate infrastructure and funding, and social and cultural isolation. In South Carolina State University: A Black Land-Grant College in Jim Crow America, William C.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Kingstree, SC, May 8, 1966.
Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina

On July 30, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in South Carolina. He had tea at Septima Clark’s house in Charleston and later that day spoke at a meeting at the old county hall building on King Street. It would be his last visit to the Palmetto state. Nine months later, King was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Dr. William Dufford
Courtesy of USC Press

Immortalized in the writings of his most famous student, best-selling author Pat Conroy, veteran education administrator William E. Dufford has led an the life of a stalwart champion for social justice and equal access for all to the empowerment of a good public education. In My Tour Through the Asylum: A Southern Integrationist's Memoir (USC Press, 2017), Dufford and his collaborators, Aïda Rogers and Salley McInerney, recount the possibilities that unfold when people work through their differences toward a common good.

USC/Thomas Cooper Library

(Originally broadcast 12/08/17) - In spite of a growing movement for journalistic neutrality in reporting the news of the 20th century, journalists enlisted on both sides of the mid-century struggle for civil rights. Indeed, against all odds, the seeds of social change found purchase in South Carolina with newspaperman John McCray and his allies at the Lighthouse and Informer, who challenged readers to "rebel and fight"--to reject the "slavery of thought and action" and become "progressive fighters" for equality.

Unidentified African American soldier in uniform with marksmanship qualification badge and campaign hat, with cigarette holder in front of painted backdrop.
Library of Congress

Upon the United States' entrance into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson told the nation that the war was being fought to "make the world safe for democracy." For many African-American South Carolinians, the chance to fight in this war was a way to prove their citizenship, in hopes of changing things for the better at home.

Celebrating graduation at a recent Morgan State University commencement.
Fire Light Media

Film maker Stanley Nelson and Dr. Bobby Donaldson of the University of South Carolina talk with Walter Edgar about the story of historically black colleges and universities in the U. S., and about Mr. Nelson’s film Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities which airs on SCETV Monday, February 19, at 9:00 pm, as part of the PBS series Independent Lens.

All Stations: Fri, Feb 16, 12 pm | News & Talk Stations: Sun, Feb 18, 4 pm

Dr. Cleveland Sellers
sc.edu

On Feb 8, 1968, three South Carolina State College students were killed and 27 others were wounded by State Highway Patrolmen. Civil rights activist Cleveland Sellers and Journalist Jack Bass reflect on the events which many consider a stain on South Carolina's reputation that remains, five decades later. 

June Scott, right, holds a picture of her son Walter. The family spoke to the press after the decision was handed down Thursday in the federal sentencing of Michael Slager.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

It was a rare sentencing following a string of officer involved, racially charged killings across the nation.  Thursday, a federal judge gave former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager 20 years behind bars for killing an unarmed man as he fled a 2015 traffic stop.  The crime was caught on witness' cell phone video.  Few officers in recent years have been convicted in such killings, much less received a lengthy punishment.  Walter Scott's family hopes the sentence sends a strong message to police across the nation.

USC/Thomas Cooper Library

In spite of a growing movement for journalistic neutrality in reporting the news of the 20th century, journalists enlisted on both sides of the mid-century struggle for civil rights. Indeed, against all odds, the seeds of social change found purchase in South Carolina with newspaperman John McCray and his allies at the Lighthouse and Informer, who challenged readers to "rebel and fight"--to reject the "slavery of thought and action" and become "progressive fighters" for equality.

Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney, Jr.
SC Hall of Fame

Justice Ernest A. Finney, Jr., South Carolina's first Africa-American chief justice, has died Sunday, December 3, 2017. He was 86. Finney was one of just a handful of black lawyers in the state when he graduated from the South Carolina State College School of Law in 1954. Finney was elected chief justice of South Carolina in 1994 and retired from the court in 2000.

Dr. J. Brent Morris
USC Beaufort

(Originally broadcast 07/14/17) Yes, Lord, I Know the Road: A Documentary History of African Americans in South Carolina, 1526 – 2008 (2017, USC Press) is the first comprehensive history of African Americans in the Palmetto State. From the first North American slave rebellion near the mouth of the Pee Dee River in the early sixteenth century to the 2008 state Democratic primary victory of Barack Obama, Dr. J.

"D" is for Dixiecrats

Nov 9, 2017
South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"D" is for Dixiecrats. Dixiecrats were a political party organized in 1948 by disgruntled white Southern Democrats dismayed over their declining influence within the national Democratic Party. The Dixiecrats, officially known as the States' Rights Democratic Party, were committed to states' rights and opposed to federal intervention in the interest of promoting civil rights. Governor J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Governor Fielding Wright of Mississippi were nominated as the party's presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Senator Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings
U.S. Congress

New Politics in the Old South: Ernest F. Hollings in the Civil Rights Era (2016, USC Press) is the first scholarly biography of Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, a key figure in South Carolina and national political developments in the second half of the twentieth century.

Narrative: Integrating the Charleston YWCA in the 1960s

Aug 25, 2017
Mary Alice Mack and Christine O. Jackson, Charleston 2012
StoryCorps

This edition of Narrative features an interview from StoryCorps, an oral history project based on the idea that the stories of everyday people are the most important and interesting of all. When StoryCorps visited Charleston in 2012, Mary Alice Mack talked with her friend Christine O. Jackson, who was the Executive Director of the Charleston YWCA for decades.

Signs From "Columbia Stands with Charlottesville" rally
Thelisha Eaddy and Laura Hunsburger/ SC Public Radio

Hundreds gathered at the South Carolina State House Monday for the "Columbia Stands with Charlottesville" rally. The event was organized by several area-groups to show support for victims of the Charlottesville, VA violence.

Among the demonstrators was Connie Shier, who attended the rally to continue her family’s legacy of fighting fascism.

Prof. Jon N. Hale
College of Charleston

(Originally broadcast 12/02/16) - Created in 1964 as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Mississippi Freedom Schools were launched by educators and activists to provide an alternative education for African American students that would facilitate student activism and participatory democracy. The schools, as Jon N.

Sitting at a restaurant on Two-Notch Road in Columbia, I.S. Leevy Johnson, along with family and friends, waited to hear election results. The year was 1970 and later that night, the group celebrated as Leevy Johnson was elected to the state's General Assembly. He, along with two other African-American men, became the first to serve in that office since the end of Reconstruction.

In this edition of Narrative, the Columbia attorney talks about the community effort that helped him win and ultimately add to South Carolina history.

Prof. Jon N. Hale
College of Charleston

Created in 1964 as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Mississippi Freedom Schools were launched by educators and activists to provide an alternative education for African American students that would facilitate student activism and participatory democracy. The schools, as Jon N.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Kingstree, SC, May 8, 1966.
Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina

  On Mother's Day 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Kingstree, South Carolina and gave a remarkable public speech urging the audience of more than 5,000 to exercise their right to vote as a means to pursue social and economic justice. On August 6, 1965—just a eight months prior to Dr. King's speech— President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, allowing the majority of Kingstree's citizens the right to vote.

Salley McInerney
independentmail.com

    Journey Proud (Abe Books, 2013) is the story of four white children growing up in the early 1960s in a middle-class neighborhood in Columbia, South Carolina. This coming-of-age tale set in the South during the civil rights movement exposes the inequities of the period and shows how childhood innocence is often replaced by harsh realities.

Walter Edgar talks with author Salley McAden McInerney. McInerney is a journalist, freelance writer and former columnist for the Anderson Independent-Mail, the Gwinnett Daily News, The Columbia Record and The State newspapers.

All Stations: Fri, Dec 18, 12 pm | News Stations: Sun, Dec 19, 4 pm


  The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in August of1965. This landmark legislation aimed to eliminate obstacles created by state and local governments to keep African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution.

Walter Edgar talks with University of South Carolina historians Bobby Donaldson and Patricia Sullivan about the history leading to passage of the Voting Rights Act, and about its impact through the years.

All Stations: Fri, Dec 11, 12 pm | News Stations: Sun, Dec 13, 4 pm


  “C” is for Citizens’ Councils. Founded in 1954, in Indianola, Mississippi, Citizens’ Councils quickly spread across the South. The organization promoted a membership as a “respectable” way for disgruntled segregationists to protest civil rights activism. The councils distributed pro-segregation propaganda and attempted to protect the legality of racial segregation. Although they denounced violence, they encouraged organized economic pressure against African Americans and whites that were sympathetic to desegregation. South Carolina’s first council appeared in Orangeburg County in August 1955. By October representatives of thirty-eight chapters met in Columbia to form the Association of Citizens’ Councils of South Carolina. Within a year they claimed forty thousand members in fifty-five councils. The driving force behind the state organization was S. Emory Rogers. Although Citizens’ Councils remained active into the 1960s, after 1958, membership never topped one thousand.


Updated at 2:28 p.m. ET

A judge in South Carolina has thrown out the convictions of the Friendship Nine, nine black men who integrated a whites-only lunch counter in 1961, at the peak of the civil rights movement.

"We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history," Judge John C. Hayes III said before signing the order that vacated their trespassing convictions. (Hayes is the nephew of the judge who handed down the original sentence.) The prosecutor apologized to the eight surviving members of the Friendship Nine who were in the courtroom.