Justice for All

A new exhibit featuring hundreds of items from the University of South Carolina’s special collections tells the story of the state’s fundamental role in the national Civil Rights Movement. Opening February 7, Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement uses oral history recordings, film clips, photographs, postcards, diaries and manuscripts to highlight largely overlooked chapters in the history of the movement. Justice for All is the work of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina, in partnership with the University of South Carolina Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences. SC Humanities helped support this project with a Major Grant.

“Students and visitors to the exhibit will learn about individuals and institutions who struggled for and demanded racial justice in South Carolina and across the country,” said Dr. Bobby Donaldson, professor of history and the Director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research. “The materials cover a broad time span, from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and range from manuscript correspondence from Coretta Scott King and Jackie Robinson, to publications from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to telegrams sent from the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to Governor Robert McNair. Audio recordings from the University’s Office of Oral History, including interviews with civil rights activists, and footage from the Moving Image Research Collection of demonstrations and press conferences, will allow visitors to see and hear firsthand the struggles of those who pushed for equal rights and the efforts of those who worked to curtail them.”

Presented for the first time in one venue, the exhibit items fill 30 glass cases and utilize all the exhibit spaces in the Thomas Cooper Library and the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina. A visual narrative is also told through specially-designed vinyl window posters and elevator wraps placed throughout the library, as well as directional signs featuring the faces of noted civil rights activists.

Visitors will see items from two dozen collections housed in University Libraries, including audio recordings of interviews with civil rights activists from the Office of Oral History, footage of demonstrations and press conferences from Moving Image Research Collections, and numerous photographs and documents from South Carolina Political Collections, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, and South Caroliniana Library.

Themes for the cases include “Voting Rights,” “Educational Justice” and “Desegregation.”

“Desegregation resistance is part of the Civil Rights Movement story, and the exhibit addresses that resistance with material on the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow Laws,” said Dr. Michael Weisenburg, Outreach Librarian in the Irvin Department and the exhibit’s facilitator. “Not everyone is on the right side of history. We need to remember that this happened, that there were those who sided against racial equality, and that we continue to fight for civil rights on many levels.”

Justice for All will be on exhibit through July 2019. Several public events will take place during that time, connecting the exhibit to significant anniversaries, such as the 50th anniversary of the Charleston Hospital Workers’ strike and the 90th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth. Invited scholars and civil rights veterans will share their work and experiences through public talks, and a number of Open Gallery days will be offered, when the exhibit will be open for weekend viewing and guided tours.

An event to launch the opening of the exhibit takes place February 7 in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library. Dr. Cleveland Sellers, a veteran civil rights activist, former Director of the USC African American Studies Program and former President of Voorhees College, is the keynote speaker. To RSVP for the opening, please visit this website. A digital Justice for All exhibit will also launch February 7. Legendary civil rights attorney, Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. will speak at the University’s School of Law on February 21.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 21-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state.  It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

Image courtesy of WIS Collection in the Moving Image Research Collection