The South Carolina Events That Changed America

“The South Carolina Events That Changed America” is a permanent exhibit at the new Cecil Williams Museum and Institute for Social Innovation in Orangeburg. The Cecil Williams Museum is the only museum in South Carolina dedicated to the topic of Civil Rights and offers comprehensive documentation of almost all of South Carolina’s Civil Rights events, including the Briggs V. Elliott case, the Orangeburg Freedom Movement, Harvey Gantt and the integration of Clemson University, the Orangeburg Massacre, the Charleston Hospital Workers’ Strike, and much more. SC Humanities awarded a Planning Grant to the Cecil Williams Museum for planning and implementation of the exhibit. The Museum is now open by appointment.

“The South Carolina Events That Changed America” is displayed in a futuristic, minimalist-styled facility in a building designed by the museum founder, noted Civil Rights photographer Cecil Williams. The exhibits consist of more than 500 photographs and 200 artifacts. It also includes a “Wall of Commitment” interactive component, where all v isitors can sign their names indicating commitment to social justice and innovation.

Cecil Williams, a native of Orangeburg, is a professional photographer, videographer, publisher, inventor, author of 6 books, and architect of six residences that became his home and photography studio. In May 2006, he published a photo-documentary entitled Out of the Box in DixieUnforgettable, the sequel to that publication was released February 2018. Williams received a degree in Art from Claflin University. By the age of nine, he had already begun his career in photography, having fallen in love with the profession after acquiring a hand-me-down camera from his family. By 15, he was working professionally and as a freelancer for such publications as JET, the Afro-American and the Pittsburgh Courier and as a stringer for The Associated Press. In addition to owning Cecil Williams Photography, LLC, Claflin University recently appointed Williams as Historic Preservationist. In December 2017, Williams received the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award to an individual, from Governor Henry McMaster.

The Cecil Williams Museum is located at 1865 Lake Dr, Orangeburg, SC 29115, and hours are currently by appointment only. In some cases, visitors might be able to arrange a personal tour by Cecil Williams. Tickets are $20 per person, and student fees are $10 per person in groups accompanied by an adult chaperone. More information about the museum and its exhibits can be found at the museum website:

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 350,000 citizens annually.

Image by Cecil Williams, courtesy of Cecil Williams