Monday was a momentous day at the Hollings Library as the University announced the creation of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research. Here are some excerpts from the news release:
University President Harris Pastides announced the creation of the center Monday (Nov. 23). It will be the first single entity dedicated to telling South Carolina’s civil rights story. Also Monday, Rep. James Clyburn, the state’s first African-American member of Congress since Reconstruction and the assistant House Democratic leader, said he would donate his Congressional papers to the new center. “I am honored to add my Congressional papers to the University of South Carolina’s significant civil rights collection. The establishment of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research allows for my Congressional papers to be a part of a larger effort to give vibrancy to South Carolina’s history and credence to its civil rights activities. . . .
University Libraries Dean Thomas McNally. . . said he envisions a center where visitors can learn through exhibits and programs and where students and scholars can conduct research using original documents. “Many young people today don’t know this state’s civil rights story or comprehend the sacrifice and courage of those involved in the movement,” he said. “Our collections contain personal accounts that tell South Carolina’s story in a way that will bring to life this transformational time in our history.” McNally said the center will start small, initially being housed in the Hollings Library. He hopes that eventually there will be a facility for the center, similar to those in other states around the country.
A terrific audience was assembled and was given the opportunity to view exhibits that included material on Congressman Clyburn, the papers of Luther Battiste, Bob Moore, I. DeQuincey Newman, and Modjeska Simkins, and our oral histories with former governors Fritz Hollings and Donald Russell in which they discussed the integration of Clemson University and USC by Harvey Gantt and Henrie Monteith Treadwell.
Politics is all about relationships and this was evident Monday. In his remarks, Clyburn mentioned that his mentor and SCPC donor John West had encouraged Clyburn to place his papers at USC. And the Center should, in time, become a destination for the public and scholars interested in learning about the struggle for equality in South Carolina.
Clyburn’s desire to use his papers as a base from which to create something broader recalls Sen. Hollings’ purpose in donating his own papers to USC in 1991. He, too, hoped that USC would use the momentum from his gift to develop Political Collections into a major center for the study of South Carolina government, politics and society. And he worked to help achieve that goal. Among the collections he helped us solicit are those of his good friends Jim Edwards and John West.
Also present on Monday was SCPC donor Robin Tallon. Tallon was Clyburn’s predecessor in Congress, serving five terms representing the 6th District. When that district was reconfigured as a black majority district, Tallon retired from the House rather than wage a campaign which pundits thought he would win, but in doing so, could tear the district apart. Clyburn and Tallon have been friends ever since.
This is an exciting time for the University and I look forward to my service on the Implementation Committee working toward our shared vision for the new Center.
See a video of the event and remarks by Pastides, McNally, History Professor Bobby Donaldson and Clyburn.
(For more information on the desegregation of the University of South Carolina, see the “5oth Anniversary of Desegregation” web page.)