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Color photo of protesters on the grounds and steps of the SC State House.
In the summer of 2020, people across the country stood together in support of equality, justice, and civil rights. Echoing activists during the Civil Rights Movement, people demonstrated in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia for days.
Photograph by Crush Rush

In the 1970s, South Carolinians elected African Americans to state office for the first time since 1900. I.S. Leevy Johnson, James Felder, and Herbert Fielding were elected to the General Assembly in 1970. In the years that followed, Civil Rights Movement veterans, including James Clyburn, Matthew Perry and the Rev. I. DeQuincey Newman, gained prominent positions in state and federal government.

The Civil Rights Movement did not end with the 1960s. In South Carolina, Civil Rights veterans and a new generation of activists carried on the struggle to make the gains written into federal law effective in daily life. The tactics pioneered by Black civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s have since been used to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and more.

Election of African Americans to Government Positions

Beginning in the 1970s, for the first time since 1900, South Carolinians elected African Americans to positions in state and federal government.
Two men sit and one stands at a desk in the South Carolina General Assembly

James Felder, seated left, and I.S. Leevy Johnson confer with Herbert Fielding, standing, in the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1970, they became the first African Americans elected to the state legislature since the election of John William Bolts in 1900.
Courtesy of South Carolina Political Collections

A young I.S. Leevy Johnson in the SC General Assembly.

I. S. Leevy Johnson

Lawyer and civil rights activist

I. S. Leevy Johnson

Lawyer and civil rights activist

I. S. Leevy Johnson, the first African American in the 20th century to graduate from the USC Law School, became one of the first African Americans elected to the South Carolina Legislature in 1970.

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John Roy Harper II political brochure

John Roy Harper II attended Fisk University in Nashville, T.N. After a year at Harvard Law School and three years in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of South Carolina Law School, became the first Black member of the South Carolina Law Review, and graduated in 1970. He served as lead counsel for the South Carolina NAACP, founded the United Citizens Party for statewide elections, and was the first African American elected to Richland County Council.
Courtesy of South Carolina Political Collections

Political ad for Matthew J. Perry's Congressional run.

After serving in World War II, Matthew Perry earned his law degree from South Carolina State College in 1951. He opened a law firm, focusing on racial segregation. In 1957, he was appointed chief strategist for the South Carolina NAACP. In 1979, Perry became South Carolina’s first Black Federal District Judge.
Courtesy of South Carolina Political Collections

A young James E. Clyburn in a suit sits on a sofa.

James E. Clyburn

Congressman and civil rights activist

James E. Clyburn

Congressman and civil rights activist

James E. Clyburn (1940-), a Civil Rights Movement veteran, taught history in Charleston, led the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, and in 1992, became South Carolina’s first Black Congressman since 1897.

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Black Lives Matter

In the summer of 2020, demonstrators across South Carolina and the nation protested the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans.
Color photograph of Black Lives Matter protest

December 13, 2014 After police killed Michael Brown (age 18), Tamir Rice (age 12), and Eric Garner (age 44) in 2014, protesters across the United States demanded justice and an end to police brutality. Pictured here is a protest in Washington, D.C. led by Rev. Al Sharpton.

Color photo of mural of George Floyd and the words

2020 George Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. While being detained, the law enforcement officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, killing him.
Breonna Taylor, an EMT, was killed when law enforcement fired into her home after receiving a no-knock warrant for someone who did not live there.

Color photo of protesters on the grounds and steps of the SC State House

2020 In the summer of 2020, after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, people — regardless of race, gender, and age — stood and marched together against the unjust treatment of African Americans.

New attention has been brought to ongoing issues of race, justice, and equality, and calls for justice and reform continue.
Photograph by Crush Rush

Bronze-colored metal statue of Richard T. Greener on a low, white pedestal.

In recent years, a push to acknowledge and better understand the history of the Civil Rights Movement has led to the memorialization and recognition of the accomplishments of African Americans.

This statue of Richard T. Greener now stands in front of the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina, honoring his legacy as a professor and librarian at the school, as well as his later accomplishments as dean of the Howard University School of Law, diplomat for the United States in Vladivostok, Russia, and secretary of the Grant Memorial.

Courtesy of the Office of Communications & Public Affairs, University of South Carolina

March 2, 2021

On the 60th anniversary of the student march on the South Carolina State House to protest segregation, the Center for Civil Rights History and Research held a ceremony to unveil a historical marker and monument in Columbia, South Carolina. The students’ arrests led to the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. South Carolina that overturned their convictions and affirmed the First Amendment right to protest injustice. Several of the original protesters attended the ceremony.

A woman speaks at an outdoor podium.

While inequality and injustice still exist, people regardless of age, race, gender, and ability have come together. As they march along main streets and at state houses across the nation, they echo the demands of generations earlier: for the end of police brutality, for the protection of Black lives, for equal rights, and for Justice for All.