Home Themes

Education

Some of the earliest civil rights efforts in South Carolina focused on education. In 1949, African American students and parents in Clarendon County, South Carolina, sued the school board over unequal schools. Their case, Briggs v. Elliott, was the first of five school desegregation cases that were argued before the U.S. Supreme Court under what would become known as Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued their ruling in those cases: Segregation was unconstitutional.

South Carolinians challenged segregation in universities as well, and in 1963, both Clemson and the University of South Carolina were desegregated.

A group of men, women, and children stand inside a church facing the camera.

November 11, 1949 

African American community members in Summerton used churches like Liberty Hill AME to organize for civil rights activism. On November 11, 1949, 107 students and parents in Clarendon County submitted a petition asking the school board for equal school facilities.

Courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History and the South Caroliniana Library

Schools

During the Jim Crow era, all South Carolina schools – from elementary through college – were segregated. Attempts to end the segregated school system began at local levels and developed into national legal challenges. Groups like the NAACP supported these legal efforts, and individuals, families, and churches took on many risks in order to fight for educational equality.
A group of men, women, and children stand inside a church facing the camera.

Clarendon County Petitioners

Parents, students and local civil rights activists

Clarendon County Petitioners

Parents, students and local civil rights activists

In 1949, African American students and parents in Clarendon County sued the school board over unequal schools in a case named Briggs v. Elliott and became a part of Brown v. Board.

Read More
Signed petition, dated November 11, 1949, demanding school equality.

1949 In fall 1949, parents and students in Clarendon County signed a petition asking the school board for equal facilities. The first name on that list was Harry Briggs, and his name became the lead on the Briggs v. Elliott lawsuit. Briggs v. Elliott became the first of five cases under Brown v. Board.
Courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History and the South Caroliniana Library

Men, women, and children fill the pews of the lower level of a church.

June 17, 1951 Families met at churches in Clarendon County to plan for the case against the Clarendon County school system. This photograph was taken during a testimonial meeting at Liberty Hill AME Church honoring the plaintiffs and workers in Briggs v. Elliot.
Photograph by Cecil Williams, courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

A white wooden building and a shorter brick building sit along a dirt road.

1951-1953 In the 1950s, South Carolina politicians tried to stall the end of school segregation by raising taxes to fund the “equalization” of segregated public schools. Scott’s Branch High School, one of the schools involved in the case of Briggs v. Elliott, received improvements under this program.
Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

A group of men and one woman stand in a church as one man receives a framed item.

1951 Harry Briggs received an award in recognition of his role in the Briggs v. Elliott school desegregation case. From left to right: E.E. Richburg, Modjeska Simkins, J.W. Seals, Joseph A. De Laine, Sr., Harry Briggs, John McCray, J.S. (Flutie) Boyd, James Hinton, and Eugene Montgomery.
Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library

Rev. Joseph A. DeLaine

Pastor, teacher and civil rights activist

Rev. Joseph A. DeLaine

Pastor, teacher and civil rights activist

Read More

After Briggs v. Elliott

Although the Supreme Court ruled in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case that segregated schools are unconstitutional, the all-white South Carolina state and local governments continued to resist desegregation. It was not until 1963, after winning Brown et al. v Charleston County School Board, that 11 African American students first attended a formerly White public K-12 school in Charleston, South Carolina.

The original 13 students involved in Brown et al. v Charleston County School Board were Millicent F. Brown, Oveta Glover, Clarisse Karan Hines, Ralph Stoney Dawson, Eddie Alexander, Clarence Alexander, Cassandra Alexander, Gerald Alexander, Henderson Alexander, Jacqueline Ford, Barbara Ford, Gale Ford, and Valerie Wright. Henderson Alexander and Valerie Wright later left the school system.

  • Standing, left to right: Clarence Alexander, Barbara Ford, Jacqueline Ford, Ralph Stoney Dawson, Millicent F. Brown, Clarisse Karan Hines. Seated, left to right: Cassandra Alexander, Gerald Alexander, Gale Ford, Oveta Glover. Not pictured: Eddie Alexander, Henderson Alexander, and Valerie Wright. Courtesy of South Carolina Political Collections
    Ten school-age students, four seated, six stand behind them.
  • Orangeburg High School was among the schools that did not integrate until 1964. Many South Carolina school districts did not desegregate until 1970 when forced to by a federal order. Courtesy of the State Newspaper Photograph Archive, Richland Library
    Two students and two adults walk under a covered walkway at a school.

Higher Education

After the end of Reconstruction, South Carolina’s institutions of higher education, including the University of South Carolina, re-segregated. In the 1960s, courageous individuals like Henrie Monteith, James Solomon Jr., Robert Anderson, and Harvey Gantt challenged segregation at the University of South Carolina and Clemson University.
Two men in conversation sit at an office desk covered in papers.

1963 Harvey Gantt (right), with civil rights attorney Matthew Perry, sued Clemson University, leading to its desegregation.
Courtesy of The State Newspaper Photograph Archive, Richland Library

Harvey Gantt discusses attending segregated Clemson University and the lawsuit that led to its desegregation.
Courtesy of Moving Image Research Collections

A young man stands in front of books, holding a document and smiling.

Harvey Gantt

Student and civil rights activist

Harvey Gantt

Student and civil rights activist

Read More
Two young men and a young woman stride across campus. White men walk behind them.

1963 Henrie Monteith, James Solomon Jr., and Robert Anderson became the first African Americans to attend the University of South Carolina since Reconstruction in September 1963.
Courtesy of Richland Library

James Solomon Jr.

Professor, student and civil rights activist

James Solomon Jr.

Professor, student and civil rights activist

Read More
A young woman and two young men carrying documents exit a building.

September 11, 1963 From left to right: Henrie Monteith, Robert Anderson and James Solomon Jr. exit the registrar’s office after enrolling in classes at the University of South Carolina.
Courtesy of Richland Library

Robert G. Anderson Jr.

Student and civil rights activist

Robert G. Anderson Jr.

Student and civil rights activist

Read More
Two men and a woman stand at a podium. One man speaks into microphones.

1963 Monteith, Solomon, and Anderson were the first African Americans to attend the University of South Carolina since the end of the Reconstruction Era.

Henrie Monteith (Treadwell) is interviewed about being one of three students to desegregate the University of South Carolina.
Courtesy of Moving Image Research Collections

Henrie Monteith Treadwell

Student and civil rights activist

Henrie Monteith Treadwell

Student and civil rights activist

Read More