By Joseph Crevier and Taylor Halle
The University of South Carolina on Friday will unveil its new digitized civil rights collection, a compilation that includes dramatic photographs and writings from the people who led the state’s civil rights movement.
John Hurst Adams, a retired bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who fought tirelessly for equality and racial justice, will speak at the unveiling at 4 p.m. Friday. His papers, along with those of his father, the Rev. E. A. Adams, are included in the collection that will be known as the Center for Civil Rights History & Research.
The collection will feature everything from diary entries, to recorded interviews of activists, to handwritten letters. The historic items will be available online and in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library in the back of USC’s Thomas Cooper Library. The center, founded in 2015, is a collaboration between University Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Some of the people whose papers will be part of the collection include:
John H. McCray - A pioneer of African-American politics and journalism in the South, John H. McCray gave his fellow black South Carolinians a voice and a platform in politics. McCray served as the editor and publisher of The Lighthouse and Informer, the most prominent black newspaper in the South, and later helped found the Progressive Democratic Party.
McCray used these two platforms in conjunction to push the civil rights movement, with his primary point being black voter registration.
Modjeska Simkins - A lifetime Columbia resident, Modjeska Simkins emerged as a civil rights activist after she was let go from a teaching job for getting married. Women were only allowed to become teachers if they were single at the time in Columbia.
Simkins entered the field of public health as director of the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association. In her position, Simkins’ objective was to decrease the amount of tuberculosis cases in African Americans, which was a prominent health issue in the 1930s. She would move on to work with the NAACP, where she continued her push for desegregated schools with large involvement with the Briggs v. Elliott case in Clarendon County.
Arthur J.H. Clement Jr. - Like McCray, businessman Arthur J.H. Clement Jr., was deeply involved in the Progressive Democratic Party, so he had a political platform to voice his opinion.
Clement pushed for equality among all races and even ran for Charleston County Council in 1948. In 1950, Clement became the first African-American to run for Congress in South Carolina for the Democratic Party. Clement was unsuccessful in both elections, but gave hope to other African Americans pursuing the political field.
Outside of his political campaigns, Clement was involved in the NAACP, as well as the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company where his father had worked for forty years.
John Roy Harper II - With both of his parents working as teachers, John Roy Harper II grew up valuing education. He attended the private Mather Academy, where both his parents taught, then went on to study for his undergraduate degree at Fisk University, an African American school in Nashville, Tenn.
Harper would later attend and graduate from law school at the University of South Carolina, after serving in the United States Army for two years. He mainly handled real estate and divorce cases, but his prominence in civil rights came serving as an attorney with the NAACP. Voting rights were the subject of many of his cases while involved with the organization, including the U.S. supreme court case NAACP v. Hampton County, South Carolina.
Harper remained a prominent figure in Columbia’s black community for the remainder of his life, holding a variety of board positions in the area. A passion for racial equality and education pushed Harper into the political field, where he founded the United Citizens Party and later represented South Carolina Democrats as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention during Bill Clinton’s 1990 presidential campaign.
Friday's event will take place at the Capstone Campus Room at 4 p.m.