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SC News

Historical Markers Recall SC Desegregation Fights

FILE - Supporters and petitioners of Briggs v. Elliott sit outside Liberty Hill AME Church in Clarendon County, SC. The lawsuit led to Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court decisions in 1954 and 1955 that ended legal segregation in public schools.
E.C. Jones and Cecil J. Williams
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Courtesy of Cecil J. Williams
FILE - Supporters and petitioners of Briggs v. Elliott sit outside Liberty Hill AME Church in Clarendon County, SC. The lawsuit led to Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court decisions in 1954 and 1955 that ended legal segregation in public schools.

Three new historical markers unveiled in a South Carolina community commemorate its role in two legal battles that helped end racial segregation in U.S. schools.

One of the markers stands outside the home where the Rev. J. A. De Laine asked Levi Pearson to file an NAACP-backed lawsuit demanding equal access to busing for Black school children. The 1948 case Levi Pearson v. County Board of Education was dismissed because of a technicality. But it set the stage for a second challenge from the Summerton community, WIS-TV reported.

In 1950, the NAACP again sued over unequal busing by the Clarendon County school board. Though it was initially unsuccessful, the case Briggs vs. Elliott became one of five lawsuits appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that formed the basis of its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. The decision found that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional.

One marker was placed outside the St. Mark AME Church in Summerton where the NAACP held fundraisers and public meetings to recruit parents willing to demand equal school transportation. Another marks the home where Harry Briggs, Sr. signed a petition against Clarendon County School Board President R. W. Elliott, who refused to supply Black schools with buses.

"We owe it to them to say thank you for blazing the trail, for paving the way, for creating opportunity to each and every one of us," said state Rep. Marvin Pendarvis.

The Summerton Community Action Group worked to obtain the historical markers. The group said it hopes they will teach others about Summerton's history and inspire them to keep pursuing equality.