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Civil Rights in South Carolina


Welcome to the South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) subject guide for Civil Rights. Please use the links below to explore relevant material from our holdings: "Collection Connections." If you have any questions or comments about this guide please contact me.

This guide provides a selection of our relevant holdings, but should not be treated as an exhaustive list. Be sure to check out our finding aids and click on the links in this guide to review the entire collections. 

From the Archives


Explore the Civil Rights Movement through the University of South Carolina Special Collections in this digital exhibit which coincided with a physical exhibit from February to August 2019.

Collection Connections

Less obvious, but of great value in documenting the civil rights movement, are the collections of leaders in state government and Congress. Legislative files on civil rights and related issues provide fascinating insights into our history. An example of the riches held within these large and complex collections are files in the collection of U.S. Senator Johnston relating to the 1961 nomination by President John F. Kennedy of noted attorney and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) to the Second United States Circuit Court of Appeals. His papers contain a substantial amount of mail received from across South Carolina and the country. The letters reflect the wide division of public opinion regarding this momentous nomination. The collection includes several folders of clippings relating to voter rights, registration, and literacy tests in South Carolina during the Civil Rights Era (Box 133).

Simkins provided remarkable leadership in the struggle for civil rights in South Carolina.  Her papers date from 1909 to 1992 and consist of some 6.25 linear feet of material documenting the African American experience in contemporary South Carolina.

Newman  helped organize the Orangeburg branch of the NAACP in 1943, was a founding member of the Progressive Democratic Party, and served the South Carolina NAACP as vice-president, secretary and president.  In 1983, at age 72, he was elected to the South Carolina Senate, becoming the first African American to serve in that body since Reconstruction.  The Newman papers are available online. They consist of 2.5 linear feet of material, 1929-2003.

Workman, a journalist, wrote for Charleston’s Post and Courier and Columbia’s The State, becoming editor of the latter in 1966.  His collection, 65 ft. of papers, 1915-1986, contains valuable materials on the civil rights movement in South Carolina. It includes clippings pertaining to voter registration participation including: “Negro Voter Group Opens Office; Hundreds Register,” which touches on the Voter Education Project of August 1964, “Registered Negro Voters Figured at 101,000 in S.C.,” and “Voter Registration Suit Promised in Williamsburg” (Box 47).

Oral History Transcript. Columbia native Perry chiefly discusses his life, legal career, and involvement in the civil rights movement in South Carolina.

The collection of Governor West contains material pertaining to the integration of South Carolina’s public school system, with West’s 1970 gubernatorial campaign against Albert Watson emphasizing civil rights issues.

The gubernatorial records and the speeches series of the Hollings papers contain seven folders, dated 1957 to 1962, and several speeches by Hollings as lieutenant governor and governor (also available online) that relate to segregation issues and school integration. Other relevant material is spread throughout his gubernatorial and senatorial records. Hollings served as lieutenant governor, 1955-1959, governor, 1959-1963, and senator, 1966-2005.

The McNair papers include material concerning the violent confrontation between S.C. State College students and state police in 1968.

In the collection, there is an image where a preoccupied Strom Thurmond asks, “Do you want to see me, Jesse?” to Jesse Jackson holding up a sign which reads "Voting Rights Act of 1964." The background shows he has knocked down several doors in a large hallway to reach this point (Box 9). Statements made by Albert Watson, William Jennings Bryan Dorn, Strom Thurmond, and Donald Russell capture the different sentiments that existed in South Carolina in response to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Box 35).

Oral History Transcript. Ike Williams (1945-2008), former NAACP field director and aide to Congressman James Clyburn discusses his relationship with Matthew Perry and his experiences as a Civil Rights leader in South Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s. He also addresses the role of Civil Rights organizations such as the NAACP, SNCC, SCLC, and BACC.