Our Story Matters
Since 2012, Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters has successfully built a platform for the world to learn the stories of the brave men and women who participated in South Carolina’s march toward freedom.
Please join us as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of a major protest that took place on the South Carolina State House grounds on March 2nd 1961. This protest led to the winning of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case known as Edwards v. South Carolina.
More details soon to come!
The Negro Citizens Committee conducted a voter registration campaign to open the Democratic Party primary to blacks. The committee organized teams of prospective black voters in Columbia to register including George Elmore, an entrepreneur and political activist. He successfully sued the Democratic Party in Elmore v. Rice and won the right to vote for African Americans in the Democratic primary.View Timeline
Southern Negro Youth Congress met in Columbia at the Township Auditorium and on the campuses of Benedict College and Allen University. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson were among the national leaders who addressed the delegation.View Timeline
The campaign to challenge “separate but equal” education began in Clarendon County, South Carolina. The filing of Briggs v. Elliott (1951) would go on to be one of the five cases that made up the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Supreme Court case.View Timeline
Hoping to prevent desegregation if Briggs v. Elliott was successful, South Carolina Governor James Byrnes signs a three-cent sales tax for education. This tax aims to equalize school facilities to avoid integration. This funding led to the construction of the auditorium building for Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia.View Timeline
Sarah Mae Flemming, a young African American domestic worker from Eastover, was struck by a Columbia bus driver for sitting in a seat reserved for white passengers and ejected from the bus on the corner of Main and Washington streets. Local activist Modjeska Monteith Simkins assists Flemming in getting legal counsel from attorney Philip Wittenberg when she sues in Flemming v. South Carolina Electric and Gas. Matthew Perry and Lincoln C. Jenkins later serve as her lawyers.View Timeline
Approximately 50 students from Allen University and Benedict College conduct the first sit-in protests in Columbia at the Woolworth and S.H. Kress department stores. Later sit-ins result in two major United States Supreme Court cases that uphold the rights of demonstrators in Bouie v. City of Columbia and Barr v. City of Columbia.View Timeline
190 protesters were arrested following an NAACP-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. On February 25, 1963, the court ruled that the 14th Amendment forbids a state “to make criminal the peaceful expression of unpopular views,” and helped demonstrations nationwide.View Timeline
United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaks at the University of South Carolina. In his speech, he explained that “the practical needs of the world today would compel our national government…to do everything possible to eliminate racial discrimination.” African American students welcomed him at the airport with signs reading “Welcome to S.C. Land of Segregation and Discrimination.”View Timeline
In response to continued protests and legal challenges to segregation, Columbia Mayor Lester Bates formed the interracial “Committee of 50.” The “Committee of 50” in Columbia votes to urge the city council to adopt a non-discriminatory hiring policy. The biracial committee was formed to help negotiate integration in the city. In 1964, it was renamed the Columbia Community Relations Council.View Timeline
Learn more about the locations where Columbia's civil rights history happened by experiencing the interactive tour online.Experience the Tour