COLUMBIA, S.C. – Today, U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn announced that South Carolina has received $1,043,897 in National Park Service (NPS) funding from African American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fund grants dedicated to preserving the sites and history related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century. The three grants will support projects, educational programming, and the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings at Allen University, Benedict College, and the University of South Carolina.
“The preservation of these projects is an invaluable investment in the campuses, communities and individuals they serve,” said Congressman Clyburn. “I am pleased that these funds will continue to allow our communities to learn from the Civil Rights Movement and the important role that South Carolina played in making America’s greatness apply more fairly and equitably to all of its citizens.”
Allen University will receive $43,897 to develop programming to promote knowledge about the vital role that African-American newspapers played in South Carolina’s civil rights movement. The project will develop educational and interpretive materials and public programming related specifically to The Lighthouse and Informer, which was published in Columbia, South Carolina from 1941 to 1954. Edited by outspoken civil rights advocate John Henry McCray, the newspaper broke news stories about watershed civil rights issues frequently overlooked by the state’s white owned newspapers. This grant will support research by six undergraduate students from regional HBCUs that will explore and interpret existing issues of these historical newspapers currently archived in the University of South Carolina’s Caroliniana Library and collect oral histories from members of the Waverly community who were alive when the paper was published. Research activities will culminate in a symposium hosted at Allen University in February 2021 focusing on civil rights and the African-American Press. The symposium will feature prominent scholars and professionals in the field of journalism who will address the significance of African-American journalists in motivating civil rights activism and legislation, and it will also provide student researchers with a forum to present their research projects to a broader public audience.
Benedict College will receive $500,000 to renovate the Starks Center to preserve the historic building that played a significant role in the African American Civil Rights Movement. This project will also serve as an educational tool for students, employees and the community on the role Benedict College played during the Civil Rights Era. The Starks Center was the hub for organizations to host planning sessions for Civil Rights activities during the late 1930s and the mid-1970s. On November 10, 1939, eight chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people met in the building to organize the South Carolina Conference of Branches of the NAACP. It was also one of the meeting places for Benedict College students Charles Barr, Milton Greene, James Edwards and Talmadge Neal who spearheaded demonstrations and protests in downtown Columbia and whose arrests resulted in the iconic cases of Edwards v. South Carolina and Barr v. City of Columbia. It set the precedence for legal gathering and illegal charges of trespassing.
The University of South Carolina will receive $500,000 to continue renovations on the historic Booker T. Washington Auditorium Building, which will become the permanent space for the University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research’s exhibit: “Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement.” The Booker T. Washington Auditorium Building is the only surviving building from Booker T. Washington High School and is one of the last remaining original structures within the historic Ward One and Wheeler One communities that were displaced during urban renewal. Initially founded in 1916 as an elementary school, in 1918 Booker T. Washington became the first public high school for African American students in Columbia. Civil rights leaders J. Andrew Simmons, Septima Clark and Modjeska Simkins taught at the school in the 1930s, and NAACP attorneys Matthew Perry (class of 1939) and Lincoln Jenkins (class of 1936) attended the school as students, along with many other individuals who became important members of the African American community in Columbia. In 1956, the auditorium building was constructed as part of a campaign to “equalize” school facilities in an attempt to stave off desegregation (buildings now known as “equalization schools”). The Booker T. Washington Auditorium Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018 due to its historic significance as a vital educational, social, and economic cornerstone of the African American community in Columbia as well as its significance as part of the equalization program.