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Summerton native Beatrice Brown Rivers was the perfect grand marshall for the annual Briggs v. Elliott Festival parade, which was held Saturday in her hometown.
After all, she lived the landmark case that was ultimately pulled with four others to make Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and the end of nationwide school segregation.
“I was one of the children who signed the petition,” Rivers said in February while speaking to students at Manning Primary School. “The parents would make the decision to sign, and then the children would sign. It took all the courage you had. But it had to be done.”
She remembers the long walks to the black schools down routes that passed the more affluent white schools.
“We’d have to get there early because there’d be no wood in the furnace, and we’d gather the wood for the heat,” she said. “These buildings would be so cold in the winter and hot in the summer.”
Rivers rode down Main Street toward U.S. 15 South on a 1917 Ford Model T to open the parade, which featured area churches, beauty queens and all political candidates on the June 14 primary ballot.
“It’s great that we have this event every year to remember that struggle,” she said. “We need to honor the memory of those who changed so much in this town, this county and this country.”