The Struggle for Equal Education in South Carolina

This article looks at the struggle for equal education rights in South Carolina from 1951 to 1963. It examines how African-Americans fought for their right to equal education and how this struggle is still ongoing today.

The Struggle for Equal Education in South Carolina

The struggle for equal education in South Carolina has been a long and arduous one, with the elimination of segregation in public schools in 1963 being a major milestone. Millicent Brown, director of Somebody Had To Do It, was one of the first girls to desegregate South Carolina schools and the only plaintiff named in the state's pioneering school desegregation case in Charleston County. Governor Byrnes used this program to demonstrate that South Carolina was committed to providing separate but equal schools. Perry, the South Carolina civil rights lawyer who would become the first black federal judge in the Deep South, was also present.

In 1951, the South Carolina legislature passed a general sales tax that anticipated a Supreme Court ruling on school segregation. Elliott, named after one of the 20 petitioners, argued that school segregation in South Carolina was unconstitutional. During this era, African-American students were not given the same educational opportunities as their white counterparts. The state constitution adopted in 1895 called for racial segregation in public schools.

In 1960, Millicent Brown stood before the school board in Charleston County and argued that the system of segregation in education adopted and practiced in South Carolina must disappear. Five days later, De Laine fled South Carolina after learning that he would face charges of attempted murder for shooting at a car full of people who threatened segregationists. The Equalization Schools of South Carolina is an online resource dedicated to the school equalization program in South Carolina. It provides a brief history of the program, historical and current photographs of equalization schools, and an ongoing list of equalization schools identified throughout the state.

Benson Elementary School, located off South Bull Street in Columbia, is currently owned by the University of South Carolina. The Somebody Had To Do It team has conducted oral history interviews with first children from South Carolina and beyond. These interviews provide insight into the struggles faced by African-Americans during this time period and how they fought for their right to equal education. The struggle for equal education in South Carolina is still ongoing today, but it is important to remember those who fought for it before us.