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National Park Service recognizes SC town connected to landmark ‘Brown v. Board of Education’ case

Summerton will be linked to sites connected to the Brown cases in Delaware, Virginia, and Kansas.
The new site will focus on history, heritage, and education connected to court fight that put an end to school segregation.
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 12:27 PM EDT
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SUMMERTON, S.C. (WBTV) - National honors were awarded to civil rights pioneers from South Carolina in 2004 with the Congressional Gold Medal recognizing the stand African American families took against school segregation, and now more federal recognition is coming to Summerton, S.C.

Joseph De Laine Jr. of Charlotte is among those elated.

He continues carrying the torch for his late father, who was known as one of the driving forces behind the landmark case connected to school integration in Clarendon County first known as ‘Briggs versus Elliott.’

The suit filed by Harry and Eliza Briggs was folded into the five cases decided by the Supreme Court under the title of ‘Brown versus Board of Education.

“When the decision occurred, we thought we saw relief,” Delaine said.

The 1954 Supreme Court ruling was designed to end the practices of separate but so-called equal schools, which justices agreed were inadequate places of learning,

Signed into law by President Biden, new admirers are expected to visit the South Carolina community.

Dr. Bobby Donaldson of the University of South Carolina has the concept of the new site being opened in the Palmetto State.

“So this is a partnership that is being formed that the National Park Service will have a physical presence in Summerton, South Carolina,” Donaldson said.

Former places connected to the Briggs case are among the sites getting a facelift once the feds step in.

Preservation of past inequities is an ongoing passion for civil rights photographer Cecil Williams, who for decades has chronicled blatant hardships endured by many students of color across the Palmetto State.

“We hope again the history that we have preserved here is something all Americans will know about,” Williams said. “It’s about time that it’s come.”

In 2021, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn was among those beaming with pride in the dedication of a roadside placard commemorating the Briggs case, but rural Clarendon County is filled with the reminders of agricultural history and hardship.

”If you’re in rural South Carolina, it was not all that unusual for you to have a full or five-month school year by law. You didn’t go to school until all the cotton was gathered out of the fields.”

Hardship is remembered by those who were once disenfranchised, but for many in Clarendon County, there is a newfound sense of heritage.

It could bring people off I-95 along the state highways into the community, and to make it successful and sustainable you’re going to need an entity like the park service.

No timetable has been established for the project’s completion, but Summerton will be linked to sites connected to the Brown cases in Delaware, Virginia, and Kansas.

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