UofSC to Expand Civil Rights Education with $1.5 Million Gift from Williams to Fund Civil Rights Exhibits, Programs and Collections – UofSC News & Events


$1.5 million gift from Williams, an energy infrastructure company, will strengthen the ability of the University of South Carolina Center for Civil Rights History and Research to share Carolina’s important role of the South in the larger national movement.

The transformational gift will help the center fund traveling and permanent exhibits, expand its oral history collection, acquire archival collections, and improve student learning in South Carolina’s K-12 and college classrooms .

The university’s acting president, Harris Pastides, joined Williams executives in announcing the gift Tuesday, Feb. 15, at the South Carolina African-American History Memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina State House. Following the announcement, center director and history teacher Bobby Donaldson led 80 EL Wright Middle School students on a civil rights history tour along Columbia’s Main Street.

“With this generous donation from Williams, the center will make great strides toward achieving more of what we envisioned,” Pastides said. “From the moment this center was conceived, we hoped to see its impact spread across South Carolina, and beyond, to illuminate the events and people who defined our state’s role in the fight for civil rights. This investment will allow the center to expand its reach and resources for this mission.

From the moment this center was conceived, we hoped to see its impact spread across South Carolina, and beyond, to illuminate the events and people who defined our state’s role in the fight for civil rights.

Harris Pastidesinterim president

The university founded the Center for Civil Rights History and Research in November 2015 as the first organization dedicated to chronicling the history of civil rights in South Carolina. The cornerstone of its collections are the congressional papers of U.S. Representative James E. Clyburn, the first African-American congressman since 1897.

“It’s fitting that Williams chose Black History Month to announce this significant gift dedicated to uplifting South Carolina’s untold civil rights history,” Congressman Clyburn said. “Only by teaching this important history can we realize
[Alexis] de Tocqueville that “the greatness of America lies not in the fact that it is more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in its capacity to repair its faults”. USC’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research is well positioned with the support of private and public partners to lead the way.

The center’s mission is threefold: Engage the community in programming to foster advocacy and action; inform the curriculum for primary and higher education; and serve students, educators, researchers, and the community in identifying and using academic collections and resources.

The Williams donation will support new and existing initiatives that will benefit every individual and community in the state.

“We still have a lot of work to do to develop a comprehensive history of the black freedom struggle in South Carolina,” Donaldson said. “This donation allows us to build on existing collaborations with scholars, journalists, librarians, and curators on our campus and throughout South Carolina. This will strengthen our efforts to promote and preserve the invaluable work of so many who are committed to documenting our state’s civil rights struggle.

A Williams employee and alumnus of the university, Kelly Adams, shared information about the center with colleagues. A relationship was quickly established to formalize an agreement on a three-year fund for the centre.

“At Williams, we have aligned our giving strategy to support causes that are important to our employees and to invest in the communities in which we operate,” said senior vice president Scott Hallam. “Our funding of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research enables the university to preserve civil rights history and tell critical stories. We encourage others to join in the advancement of this important project.

Following Williams’ donation, the popular temporary exhibit “Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement,” which opened in February 2019 to highlight turning points in the history of Civil Rights in South Carolina that influenced change nationwide, was launched as a traveling exhibit in Sumter, South Carolina, last month. Additionally, the exhibit will have a permanent home in the university’s Booker T. Washington High School Auditorium, built in 1956 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

Equally powerful will be the presentation of oral histories following Williams’ donation. Donaldson said center staff will conduct, transcribe and digitize oral interviews with civil rights-era participants from across South Carolina. These personal testimonies are particularly gratifying for Donaldson.

“What excites me most about working with this gift is the expanded opportunity to collect and preserve the memories of living witnesses to history. These oral interviews will fill in the gaps in the existing historical narrative. Where there was silence, there will now be voices telling unknown details and more perspectives on momentous events,” Donaldson said.

These stories will be shared with students and the public through the center’s “Our Story Matters” platform for podcasts and documentaries.

Donaldson said Williams’ support affirms the university’s commitment to documenting and interpreting the history of the civil rights movement in the state and the nation.

“We are now well placed to bring the center to a level that few imagined a few years ago. This is an exciting and promising time for our university and for all those who over the decades have laid the foundation on which we are built,” he said.

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Topics: Alumni, Initiatives, Diversity, History, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University Libraries


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