State News

USC Center for Civil Rights commemorates 70th anniversary of Briggs vs Elliott


The 70th anniversary of Briggs v. Elliott, a pivotal court case that challenged school segregation, was commemorated on May 23 at the Brookland Banquet and Conference Center in Columbia. The University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research hosted this profound program and lecture that included a distinguished panel and performances by local students.

The event commenced with opening remarks by Jannie Harriot, Executive Director of Development and Programs at the Cecil Williams South Carolina Civil Rights Museum. Harriot underscored the historical importance of Briggs v. Elliott and its enduring impact on civil rights. She highlighted the relentless persecution faced by those who challenged segregation, emphasizing the bravery of the plaintiffs and their supporters.

Reverend Geoffery Henderson of Revelations Ministries in Orangeburg kicked off the program with a poignant prayer before the Center for Learning Honors Choir sang for the event guests.

The program showcased the talents of local students, adding a vibrant touch to the event. Jernee Ford, a 10th grader from Laurence Manning Academy, read two original poems, while Jenesis Ford, a 7th grader at Scott’s Branch Middle School, presented an oral history and timeline of the court case. Ella Levy, a 6th grader at Manning Elementary School, designed clothes for the event, and Shania Weathers, a 10th grader from Scott’s Branch High School, sang for the attendees.

The panel featured individuals closely connected to the case, providing personal insights into this critical moment in history. Joseph DeLaine, Jr., whose father spearheaded the petitions and lawsuits against school segregation, shared memories of the violence and economic retaliation his family endured, forcing them to leave South Carolina. “My father was instrumental in guiding and nurturing the challenge through the community,” he recounted.

Nathaniel Briggs, son of lead plaintiffs Harry and Eliza Briggs, spoke about the personal cost of their involvement. “My parents believed in what they were doing,” he said. “They knew this life we were leading as children would not help us as adults.”

Cecil J. Williams, a renowned civil rights photographer and founder of the Cecil J. Williams South Carolina Civil Rights Museum, reflected on his role in documenting the movement. “The purpose of my museum is to reclaim this history and remind the world of South Carolina’s pivotal role,” he stated.

Beatrice Brown Rivers, one of the original signatories of the petition at age 13, described the hardships her family faced, stating, “Every parent who signed that petition lost their job,” illustrating the community’s resilience and determination.

Celestine Parson Lloyd, who participated in Dr. Kenneth Clark’s influential doll study, shared her experience, saying, “I told him the black doll was the best doll, and that’s who I represent.”

Dr. Millicent Brown, a retired history professor and social justice consultant, also joined the panel, contributing her extensive knowledge and perspectives on the historical context and ongoing implications of the case.

Dr. Bobby Donaldson concluded the evening with a powerful reminder: “Past accomplishments and blessings will not suffice. The fight has just begun.” This sentiment resonated with the audience, echoing the enduring spirit of those who fought for equality in Clarendon County and inspiring new generations to continue the struggle for justice and equality.