James Clyburn: Then and Now

By Laura Stillwagon

As part of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grant we recently received, and  alongside digitizing the South Carolina Council on Human Relations archive held at UofSC’s South Caroliniana Library, a new website for civil rights collections will be created to allow for easier searching and browsing of these collections. Much of the civil rights collections available online in Digital Collections, South Carolina Political Collections, Moving Image and Research Collections and elsewhere, encapsulate the state of South Carolina’s experience and memory of the Civil Rights Era.

To prepare for the website, a large assessment and evaluation of the current civil rights collections is being done. While searching through some of the content, some of the recorded early work of James Clyburn, current Majority Whip and Democratic Representative of South Carolina, was found. He has had a long political career in South Carolina, and a lot of his activity during the Civil Rights Era and after was recorded. Representative Clyburn has even been in the news lately for his appointment as Chairman of the bipartisan House committee created to manage spending on measures made to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the aberrant events of today, Majority Whip Clyburn was involved in both social justice and bureaucracy during and after the Civil Rights Era. An active participant in the Civil Rights Movement, outtakes from the two speeches given by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Columbia show Clyburn at the front row. Following the Civil Rights Movement, he was the acting Head of the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission. Rep. Clyburn was also an assistant to the South Carolina Governor West for Human Resources, where he dispelled misinformation on the economic disparities of poor and African American people-in-need. In 1971, Clyburn was elected president of Young Democrats of South Carolina. In 2015, Clyburn announced the donation of his papers to the Center for Civil Rights History and Research as part of the opening ceremony for the establishment of the center at the University of South Carolina’s Hollings Library.

Video above: WIS-TV newsman Tom Howard introduces James Clyburn, assistant to Governor John West for human resources. Clyburn tries to dispel the “welfare Cadillac” myth, which purports that ineligible people misuse the food stamp program.

Documents and more on James Clyburn can be found here. More local TV newsreel outtakes from MIRC can be found here, as well as more collections that document South Carolina during the Civil Rights Era. Stay tuned for our CLIR digital collection updates!

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References

Forgey, Q. (2020, 5 April). Clyburn: House coronavirus panel ‘will be forward-looking,’ not review Trump’s early response. Politico. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/05/trump-clyburn-house-coronavirus-panel-166064

 

A New Civil Rights Collection Coming Soon

By Laura Stillwagon

Council on Library and Information Resources
Council on Library and Information Resources

One of the new projects in development in Digital Collections involves a collection of manuscripts and photographs from the South Carolina Council on Human Relations (SCCHR), held by the South Caroliniana Library. The project is made possible by the Council on Library and Information Resources’

(CLIR) Digitizing Hidden Collections grant. The award is given to those institutions that have expressed a need for digitizing a collection that is relatively unknown and that will bring new knowledge to a subject. Rightly titled, New Insights on South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement: National Interracial Activism in the South Carolina Council on Human Relations Papers, the collection expands on what is already known about civil rights and the Civil Rights Era, bringing about more awareness, more knowledge and, hopefully, more evidence for change.

The collection spans five decades, beginning in 1934 before the Civil Rights Era (1955-1969), and it amasses 1,700 folders and 32 boxes. Included in the papers are correspondence, financial records, meeting minutes, open letters, radio scripts, reports, and more all concerning the Council’s involvement in civil rights activities. These papers will not only reveal hidden figures ushering in progress, but also broaden the definition of civil rights.

Since we are under an ordinance to work remotely, I can only share with you a few examples of the content found in this collection. Pictured below are some of the first correspondence and documents kept.

 

A Year in the Life: James T. McCain and the Freedom Rides

By: Kaylin Daniels and Laura Stillwagon

James T. McCain (1905-2003) was a Civil Rights activist that was involved with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Freedom Riders, the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and community service in his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina. McCain’s deeds in the Civil Rights Era are numerous, and it’s difficult to select just a few to highlight from this collection of his personal calendars and planners. From court trials, civil engagements and encounters with the FBI, his actions are something to behold as are his records of the racial crimes he sought to end. Looking at one year of his life through his calendars, you can begin to piece together his tireless days in pursuit of equality.

From James T. McCain calendar, May 23, 1961, pg. 23
From James T. McCain calendar, May 23, 1961, pg. 23

Calendar Year 1961: Freedom Ride

The calendar McCain kept in 1961 contains details on notable events and figures of the Civil Rights Era (1954-1968), like the first Freedom Ride. The first ride in 1961 was led by CORE and consisted of a group of white and black activists that took an interstate bus from Washington D.C. to New Orleans to evaluate how effective the Supreme Court ruling on public bus desegregation truly was. McCain makes note of the arrests and trials of students who participated in this protest. Many of these participants were beaten despite their nonviolent protest (Pace, 1993). All the while, McCain continued recruiting and training more members to the cause from SC to New Orleans, all the way down to Florida. His unceasing efforts to keep the Movement going is astounding.

One major figure in this first Freedom Ride was James “Jim” Peck. McCain wrote at one point, “May 23rd, “Gov. of S.C. attacked Freedom Riders in state paper and especially Jim Peck. Ask[ed] Justice Dept. to investigate riders [sic.].” A white Civil Rights pacifist and a member of CORE, Peck was a non-violent activist, beginning in the 1940s with his membership with the War Resisters League (Pace, 1993). He played a large role in organizing the Freedom Ride from Washington state to Alabama, and he was amongst the few who were severely beaten when their trip ended in Birmingham (Gross, 2006). To read the full newspaper article, titled “Hollings Deplores Violence Asks Probe of ‘Riders’” by Bill Mahoney, click here [PDF will automatically download]. McCain’s notes on the SC Governor’s remarks concerning Peck and the other freedom riders serve as another account of the atmosphere at the time surrounding the efforts of those seeking racial equality using non-violent protests.

From James T. McCain Collection calendar, November 24, 1961, pg. 49
From James T. McCain Collection calendar, November 24, 1961, pg. 49

McCain himself was also impressive in his demeanor. He wrote about how the FBI paid him a visit on November 24th. They questioned him about the Trailways bus terminal accident that took place in Jackson, Mississippi on November 16th. His tone in the entry was very unconcerned. It was just another day in his life; to be added to his schedule as a simple report. This shows how courageous he was, and his passion for racial equality was more important than any fear of being hounded by authorities. McCain concluded 1961 strong, showing that he was not slowing down for this fight.

More on the way soon!

Processing this collection is something to behold. There are many other events, crimes and atrocities—many needless injuries and deaths—McCain has mentioned, and the steps he took to protest and end them. There is much more history to come as we finish up Box 1. Stay tuned!

References

Mizell and the AFSC

By Stephanie Gilbert

M. Hayes Mizell and Mary Berry, Assistant Secretary for Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare

The M. Hayes Mizell Papers is an important collection that Digital Collections (Digi) is currently working on.  This Civil Rights collection consists of over 160 boxes which is the largest that Digi is currently digitizing.  These past few months I have been scanning box 111 which is a collection of speeches by, or connected to, Mizell from the 1960’s and 70’s.  As mentioned in my previous blog, Hayes Mizell was the Director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  The AFSC is mentioned frequently in the majority of speeches scanned, which led me to research a bit more about them and Mizell’s connection with the group in South Carolina.

“Founded in 1917, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action” (About us, n.d.).  Established during World War I, the AFSC allowed objectors to serve their country without violence.  “They drove ambulances, ministered to the wounded, and stayed on in Europe after the armistice to rebuild war-ravaged communities” (AFSC history, n.d.).  The promotion of peaceful communities was not only a worldwide goal, but also a goal for smaller areas, such as South Carolina.  “By 1966 [Mizell] had come to work for AFSC as the South Carolina field representative of what was called ‘the American Friends Service Committee–NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund School Desegregation Task Force’” (Mizell, 1973, p. 2).  As their representative, he worked with people in the community, met with federal officials, and advocated for desegregation in schools.  In a way, Mizell became a voice for people who could not be heard.  He spoke up for lower income communities and worked hard for students and teachers who faced racial segregation as well as encouraging them to stand up for their rights and demand equal opportunities.

Bettye Boone, Hayes Mizell, and Jackie Williams – Southeastern Public Education Program – Staff Training for Title I Project, c. 1970’s

Mizell’s work reached far beyond the Civil Rights era and is still influencing people today.  The University of South Carolina’s African American Studies Program offers the Hayes Mizell Research Award.  This is awarded to students in African American Studies who utilize the Mizell Collection for scholarly research.  Each of the two students chosen receives five hundred dollars to aid in their research and writing. I am making steady progress digitizing the collection. Check back in March for an update!

References

Introduction to James T. McCain

By: Chauna Carr, Kaylin Daniels, and Laura Stillwagon

James T. McCain (1905-2003) was a Civil Rights activist remembered for his selfless volunteering and organized marches. One of his main endeavors was making it possible for African Americans to register to vote during the Civil Rights era. As a very active Civil Rights leader, he was incredibly organized, making note of everything he did, down to his car mileage. His collection is housed and maintained by the South Caroliniana Library here at the University of South Carolina, and consists of yearly calendars and notebooks used as day planners to organize his Civil Rights endeavors.

McCain was a huge supporter of the War Resisters League – many of his calendars held at South Caroliniana Library are from this organization. For those who do not know, the War Resisters League has been around since 1932. They work to spread nonviolence and advocate to end war. As shown by their calendar covers, the League supported other movements and prominent non-violent figures of social justice, like a calendar in the McCain collection that includes a dedication to Mahatma Gandhi, and one to Jessie Wallace Hughan, an American educator, social activist, and radical pacifist.

Another calendar supports equality for women, and another promotes Civil Rights peace with the gospel song lyrics “We shall overcome”. One of our favorite calendars includes a photographic collection of the Civil Rights Movement and some other fun features like rock and roll music lyrics and an uplifting message for peace. The calendars themselves are very inspiring; with many motivational poems and quotes included throughout. McCain interacted extensively with his calendars and each one shows what he believed and aligned with. Illustrated with the pacifistic nature of Gandhi, equality for women, and using one’s right to protest, the calendar covers were a reminder of what McCain was fighting for.

“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League

McCain used his calendars to plan his events, track his meetings and travels, and record other miscellaneous things about his daily life; for instance, he logged his speedometer readings, meal prices, and resting days. On top of recording local community accomplishments, he always tried to acknowledge the achievements of people of color by taping or stapling news coverage of their successes directly into his calendars. For example, he wrote:

“Sumter schools reopen today – black parents and citizens negotiated with school authorities not to dismiss students to roam the streets again but try to deal with protesters at sch. Mission successful.”

 

 

Here are some other examples:

“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9,

James T. McCain was a prolific figure working behind the scenes during the Civil Rights movement. The South Caroliniana Library is in the process of preserving and displaying McCain’s collection, and Digital Collections is working in collaboration with them to digitize his work. We’re digitizing this archival collection of day planners as part of a university awarded ASPIRE II grant, written by Graham Duncan, Head of Collections and Curator of Manuscripts at South Caroliniana Library; Bobby J. Donaldson, Associate Professor and Head of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research; and Mēgan A. Oliver, Digital Collections Librarian.

There’s still more to come! This project is still in process and on track to being completed this semester. We are looking forward to learning more, and sharing more, about James T. McCain!

 

Justice For All: A Digital Exhibit for South Carolina Civil Rights

By Mēgan Oliver

In December of 2018, Digital Collections Librarian, Mēgan Oliver, and Library Web Developer (Library Technology Services (LTS)), Sarah Funk, met with the exhibition team from the Center for Civil Rights History and Research.  The civil rights team was planning an exhibition entitled “Justice for All: South Carolina and the Civil Rights Movement“. The team members, Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Jill Found, Patrice Green,  Jennifer Melton, Celeste Minor,  and Jonathon Johnson, expressed their needs for a digital exhibit, and we in Digi and LTS laid out what digital exhibition options are available (we’re building digital exhibits in WordPress currently). The civil rights team chose their layout, essentially the digital look and feel of the exhibit, and expressed their goals. As the Director of the Center, Dr. Donaldson communicated what was most important, in terms of the collection’s context and emphasized how he wanted to highlight visually compelling digital archives to support the physical exhibit of Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement. With these parameters, Digi and LTS began working to support this traditional exhibit structure with an online component.

The exhibit opened in the Ernest F. Hollings Library in February of 2019,  complete with civil rights speakers, tours of the collections, special events, and a variety of press releases. This summer, the exhibit will see it’s final few months. Don’t miss the incredible collections on display! Justice for All is open until August 31. If you can’t make it to Columbia, SC to see it in person, not to worry: there’s a permanent digital exhibit with the same title, Justice for All.