Local News

70th anniversary celebration of Briggs v. Elliott marks milestone in Civil Rights Movement


The town of Summerton is set to commemorate the 70th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the nation’s civil rights history — the Briggs v. Elliott case. From May 16 through May 19, a series of events are underway to honor the courageous individuals who fought against racial segregation in public schools.

The celebrations kick off on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. with historical tours and a museum kick-off celebration at the Summerton Resource Center. Attendees have the opportunity learn more about the rich history of the civil rights movement with guided tours of historical markers and the Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum, open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Friday’s agenda, running from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., promises a blend of reflection and jubilation. The day begins with the Honorary Nine Mile Walk, starting at the Pearson’s Estate in Manning and ending at the Summerton Resource Center.

Participants will have the chance to share their personal stories during “Let’s Tell Your Story” recordings from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Festival goers can end their evening with “An Evening of Jazz in the Park” from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., a soulful celebration of resilience and unity.

Saturday’s events, starting at 8:00 a.m. and continuing until 11:00 p.m., promise a day of community camaraderie and reflection. The day begins with a parade and community festival along Main Street followed by additional tours of the Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum. The commemorative black-tie gala at the Scotts Branch High School Gymnasium from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. promises to be the highlight of the weekend, bringing together historians, local leadership, and community members to honor the legacy of the Briggs v. Elliott case.

The celebrations will culminate on Sunday with a culminating worship service at 3:00 p.m., featuring national and state representatives, at 2810 Liberty Hill Road, Summerton, SC.

The significance of the Briggs v. Elliott case cannot be overstated. Originating in Clarendon County, the case emerged amidst a backdrop of deep-seated racial segregation in public schools. In the 1940s, Clarendon County spent a mere $42 per Black student compared to $179 per white student, epitomizing the stark disparities in educational resources.

Rev. Joseph A. DeLaine, an educator and minister, played a pivotal role in catalyzing the community’s resistance against segregation. Despite facing immense opposition and even death threats, DeLaine and other courageous individuals mobilized the community to challenge the status quo. The Briggs v. Elliott case, filed on May 16, 1950, marked a turning point in the fight against segregation, setting the stage for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

Seventy years later, the legacy of Briggs v. Elliott endures as a testament to the resilience and determination of those who fought for equality. As Summerton commemorates this historic milestone, it serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality in America.