Black History

South Carolina's African-American history stretches back to the 1600's when enslaved Africans first arrived in the Carolina Colony. They played a major role in the cultivation of rice and cotton in the state, working long hours in harsh conditions. About one-third of the nation’s slaves came through Charleston, SC. See S.C. Black History Chronology - Part 1 of 4: The Arrival through the End of Slavery

Not much detail is recorded about the history of African American in Clarendon county prior to the Civil War. About the only records available are census data that record the number blacks that were enslaved during the first 150 years of the state's existence. For example:

South Carolina Census Figures

* See S.C. African American History and S.C. Census

According to U.S. Census data, the 1860 Clarendon County population included 4,378 whites, 8,566 slaves, and 151 free colored people. See RootsWeb.

On the other hand, the 20th century records a number of major historical events that occurred in which the courageous actions of the black community in Clarendon county had a significant impact on the equitable treatment of fellow African Americans and people of all races across South Carolina and the United States.

Briggs vs. Elliott

The NAACP first attempted unsuccessfully, with a single plaintiff, to take legal action in 1947 against the inferior conditions African American students in Clarendon county experienced under South Carolina’s racially segregated school system. By 1951, community activist Rev. J.A. DeLaine, convinced African American parents to join the NAACP efforts to file a class action suit in U.S. District Court. This class action case, Briggs vs. Elliott (Board of Education), was named for Harry Briggs, Sr.

Nineteen members of this congregation were plaintiffs in the case of Harry Briggs, Jr., vs. R. W. Elliott, heard in U.S. District Court, Charleston, in 1952. The court found that the schools designated for African Americans were grossly inadequate in terms of buildings, transportation and teachers' salaries when compared to the schools provided for whites. The court order to equalize the facilities was virtually ignored by white school officials after it was issued.

In Briggs vs. Elliott, the court refused to abolish racial segregation in S.C. schools. However, the ruling set the stage for Briggs to be appealed to the Supreme Court, where it was combined with four other desegregation cases, including Brown v. Board.This ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court´s 1954 landmark decision, desegregating public schools - Brown vs. Board of Education.

In 1965, integration of a few token black students into formerly all-white Clarendon county schools began. In 1970, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit mandated complete desegregation, many white students left the public schools to enroll in private, all-white academies such as Clarendon Hall.

Liberty Hill Colored School - See U.S. Slaves Blogspot

Rev. J. A. De Laine, was the principal of Scotts Branch school, also known as the Liberty Hill colored school. He played a key role in encouraging parents to sign the petition demanding improvements in the schools and services provided for African American students. Rev. De Laine and his family suffered dearly. Both his home and his church were burned to the ground. He was harassed with death threats and eventually left town. He finally relocated to upstate New York where he founded the De Laine-Waring African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church. Rev De Laine died in 1974.

The Legacy of Summerton - Interesting article published in Newsweek Magazine in 1994, summarizing progress fifty years after Briggs vs. Elliott.

* See the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research.

** You might also want to check out the complete series of articles by Richard Reid on the History of Black Americans in South Carolina.

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Black Churches Burned by the Klan

In 1995, after the burning of black churches in Manning and Greeleyville, South Carolina, Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center(SPLC) filed a civil suit against the South Carolina Klan on behalf of Macedonia Baptist Church and won a $37.8 million judgment against the KKK.

Reverend Jonathan Mouzon was the pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church outside Manning, one of two churches destroyed by Ku Klux Klan arsonists in June 1995. The other church that was burned down by the Klan was Mt. Zion AME Church. As a lifelong resident of Manning, Rev. Mouzon knew of the Klan's intimidation tactics since his childhood, but nonetheless persuaded his parishioners to overcome their fears after the churches were burned down and file a civil lawsuit against the Ku Klux Klan.

Defense attorney Gary White painted Grand Dragon Horace King as a feeble old man merely exercising his right to free speech, saying King had not authorized the attack on the 125-year-old church. But witnesses told a different story, portraying King as a dynamic hatemonger who specifically spoke of burning churches and protecting his men from the law. Testimony showed that King portrayed black churches as demonic. He told his followers that black churches were plotting against white America.

Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), local State Senator John Land, and others, the church won a record $37.8 million judgment in July 1998. Circuit Court Judge Howard P. King later reduced the verdict to $21.8 million. The North Carolina based Christian Knights organization was ordered to pay $15 million and the South Carolina chapter of the group was found liable for $7 million.

The civil judgment forced the Klan to give up its land and headquarters. When the property was sold, the deed included a restriction that the land never be used for white supremacist activities. The judgment in this case transformed the Christian Knights from one of the most active Klan groups in the nation to a defunct organization. It served as a model for other communities seeking to successfully combat oppression across the U.S..

As a result of his outspoken activism, Rev. Mouzon's life was threatened by the Klan and he found increasing difficulty getting work in the Manning area. While reasonably good relations have been restored between local blacks and and the white community, there is still a need to continue working towards improved race relations.

Take an online walk through the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

* See Forgotten Fires documentary film.

Other recommended African-American history sites include: