Our Work

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Through programming, exhibitions, research, collection acquisition, and curriculum support, we work to chronicle, preserve, and share civil rights history in South Carolina and across the country.  We have several projects underway to support that mission:

Justice for All

The Center’s key initiative, Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement illuminates the pivotal – but often overlooked – role that South Carolina played in the Civil Rights Movement.  First on display from February – August, 2019, in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina, this exhibit drew more than 4,000 visitors.  It featured letters, documents, photographs, news footage, and oral histories that focused on aspects of the Civil Rights Movement, including voting rights, public demonstration, education, economic rights, and opposition to the movement.  

To continue telling this story, the Center is currently adapting this exhibit into a traveling exhibit that will travel to museums and libraries across the state, a comprehensive digital exhibit, and permanent exhibit to be on display in the historic Booker T. Washington Auditorium Building.  To view some of the items used in the exhibit, click here.

Three people looking at an exhibit case of Justice for All


South Carolina Council on Human Relations Digitization Project

Funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, we’re working in collaboration with University of South Carolina Libraries to digitize the papers of the South Carolina Council on Human Relations (SCCHR), an interracial organization that was active throughout the Civil Rights Movement.  With over 40 boxes of materials, this collection is a rich, unparalleled resource on key figures and events in South Carolina civil rights history.

The collection includes material like this letter below from Congress of Racial Equality organizer, Tom Gaither to SCCHR Director Alice Spearman during his imprisonment after the Rock Hill sit ins in January, 1961.   Gaither was part of a group of student demonstrators known as the “Friendship Nine,” who refused bail after they were arrested for sitting in at a Rock Hill McCrory’s.  They served a 30 day sentence, pioneering the “Jail No Bail” strategy designed to draw greater attention to the movement. (Click each image to enlarge).

Image of Letter from Thomas Gaither Image of Letter from Thomas Gaither Image of Letter from Thomas Gaither Image of Letter from Thomas Gaither


James T. McCain Datebooks Digitization Project

The Center is also working in collaboration with University of South Carolina Libraries to digitize and annotate the datebooks of Congress of Racial Equality organizer James T. McCain.  McCain was a key organizer of civil rights strategies and campaigns including the 1961 Freedom Rides, and he used these datebooks to record his activities, make notes on people he met with, and itemize key moments.  These books provide a remarkable window into the Civil Rights Movement and the way in which organizers worked for a better society.

Image of Datebook Entry: Gov of SC attacked Freedom Riders in State Paper
McCain Datebook Entry for May 23, 1961.


Briggs v. Elliott Digital Exhibit

In November 1949, African-American parents and students in Clarendon County, South Carolina signed a petition asking for equal schools to that of white students.  This petition became the basis of the lawsuit, Briggs v. Elliott, the first of the five cases that became Brown v. Board of Education in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation unconstitutional.  We are currently working to create a digital exhibit that will draw from archives and repositories across the country to tell the story not only of this landmark case, but of the critical work of organizing that happened before, during and after the Briggs v. Elliott case.