Columbia’s Story Matters

In January 2012, the mayors of seven Southern cities collaborated to mark the 50th anniversary of 1963 – the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Throughout 2013, these cities recognized and commemorated the courage of countless ordinary citizens who sacrificed everything to march toward freedom and force the nation to uphold its democratic ideals.

For Columbia, SC, this undertaking was especially important and valuable.

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November 10, 1939

Twenty-nine representatives from branches around South Carolina met at Benedict College in Columbia and founded the South Carolina NAACP State Conference of Branches.

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The Fight for Black Political Power

In May 1944, Lighthouse and Informer editor John H. McCray organized the Progressive Democratic Party to contest the validity of South Carolina’s lily-white delegation at the national Democratic Party convention.

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George Elmore

In the summer of 1946, George Elmore, a fair-skinned entrepreneur and secretary of the Richland County PDP, managed to register to vote at a small grocery store in Columbia’s ninth ward. After being refused the right to vote in the August primary, Elmore became the lead plaintiff in a class action suit, Elmore v. Rice.

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End of the “Whites Only” Democratic Party

After South Carolina Democratic Party officials denied George Elmore and others the right to vote in its primary, NAACP. leaders sought legal redress. Columbia attorney Harold Boulware, with the assistance of Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter, filed a class action lawsuit, Elmore v. Rice, to open up the Democratic primary to blacks.

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Briggs v. Elliott

One of the hallmarks of the South Carolina NAACP’s litigation campaign was Briggs v. Elliott (1951), which stemmed from a grassroots campaign to equalize schools in rural Clarendon County.

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Before Rosa Parks

On June 22, 1954, Sarah Mae Flemming, a 20-year-old African American native of Lower Richland County, boarded a public bus operated by South Carolina Electric and Gas Company. When a seat became available near the “whites only” section, Flemming sat down.

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Massive Resistance

White South Carolinians joined the growing “Massive Resistance” movement which arose in opposition to the Brown mandate and local initiatives to integrate public schools and accommodations.

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Student Activism

Inspired by the “Greensboro Four,” young black South Carolinians conducted sit-ins, marches, and other acts of civil disobedience to dismantle segregation.

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March 2, 1961

Columbia’s student movement peaked when NAACP leaders and over 200 students left Zion Baptist Church and conducted a “noisy demonstration” on the South Carolina State House grounds.

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Edwards v. SC

In March 1961, 187 protesters were arrested following a planned demonstration on the South Carolina State House grounds. A lawsuit filed on their behalf—Edwards v. South Carolina – reached the United States Supreme Court.

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Malcolm X Visits

On April 18, 1963, Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X addressed a small mosque at 2217 Waverly Street in Columbia.

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September 11, 1963

Despite several tense moments of opposition, Henri Monteith, Robert Anderson, and James L. Solomon became the first African American students to enroll at the University of South Carolina since Reconstruction.

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Integration & Racial Dialogue

Mayor Bates convened the “Committee of 50,” a biracial advisory group designed to promote interracial understanding and ease the transition towards an integrated society.

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