One week after a ceremony honoring South Carolina civil rights pioneer George Elmore culminated with the erection of a historic marker in front of the downtown Columbia building he once operated, the structure was promptly razed.
Elmore ran the Waverly 5-and-10 cent store, and area mainstay, up until the late 1940s, when he dared to challenge the state’s status quo and put his name on a lawsuit that sought to end South Carolina’s practice of all-white political primaries.
Elmore’s actions led to economic reprisals and financial ruin, according to The State newspaper.
Last Friday, one week after a ceremony attended by city leaders, academics and Elmore’s descendants, the 1935 structure was reduced to a pile of rubble.
The property’s owner, First Nazareth Baptist Church, which sits next door, has not said what it will do with the razed site or why it chose to knock down the historic structure.
Not surprisingly, there is a good bit of unhappiness in area preservation circles.
The Tulsa race riot is a particularly ignominious blot on American history.
Over an 18-hour period on May 31-June 1, 1921, a race-fuel siege destroyed the wealthiest African-American community in the United States, wiping out 35 blocks of a residential and business community known as the “Black Wall Street,” and leaving 300 known dead and 10,000 homeless.
Yet, it’s largely an unknown event, ignored by Oklahoma history books until quite recently, and unknown by many individuals both black and white.
Otis Clark, the last known survivor of the Tulsa race riot, died this week in Seattle at the age of 109.
He told a Tulsa television station in 1999 that he remembered being shot at while attempting to secure a car to help riot victims.
Clark’s family’s home was burned to the ground in the conflagration, and he believed his stepfather died in the riot because he was never seen again.
Shortly after the melee, Clark left Tulsa on a train bound for California.
A view held by those outside the South – and no small number within – is that white racism not only dominated life in the region until about roughly 30 years ago, but that it was a predominant factor in the governments which oversaw the states of the former Confederacy.
But, as with all stereotypes, it would be wrong to imply that all Southern leaders up to and through the Civil Rights movement were unabashed bigots.
Case in point is William “Bill” Waller, the former governor of Mississippi, who died last week in Jackson, Miss., at age 85.
Waller, a Democrat, was elected in 1971 and used his time in office to appoint blacks to administrative boards and commissions for the first time in post-Reconstruction Mississippi, according to the New York Times.
He elevated three historically black colleges to university status, and he abolished the anti-integration Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, which the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger described as the “state segregationist spy agency.”
As the roiling waters of the Mississippi River continue to wend their way south, those in the know are calling this flood the second-worst in US history, behind only the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
In mid-April of that year, the great river broke through a levee a few miles north of Greenville, Miss., sending a wall of water hurtling down Main Street and forever changing the area’s landscape.
Homes were crushed, sharecroppers’ farms were swept away and hundreds died.
The flood eventually affected Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Arkansas was hardest hit, with 14 percent of its territory covered by floodwaters.
By May 1927, the Mississippi River below Memphis, Tenn., reached a width of 60 miles.
One of South Carolina’s greatest legal minds didn’t come out of the University of South Carolina School of Law, even though he did attend law school in the Palmetto State just after World War II.
Matthew J. Perry, who would go on to become the first black lawyer from the Deep South to be appointed to the federal judiciary, was graduated from the South Carolina State University School of Law in 1951.
Perry was one of more than four dozen individuals who graduated from the now-all-but-forgotten law school, which existed from 1947 until 1966. Another graduate was Ernest A. Finney Jr., former chief justice of the SC Supreme Court.
SC State’s School of Law came about because of the refusal by state leaders to integrate the University of South Carolina School of Law, which for many years was the state’s only institution for legal education.
A free black born in Charleston a generation before the War Between the States and who became a Civil Rights activist nearly a century before Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks is the subject of a new book by Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin.
Octavius Catto led the fight to desegregate Philadelphia’s horse-drawn streetcars, raised all-black regiments to fight in the Civil War, pushed for black voting rights and he started an all-black baseball team.
Ultimately, he was gunned down in Philadelphia for his efforts to get out the black vote.
Biddle and Dubin detail the life of this remarkable individual, the obstacles he faced and his many accomplishments in Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America.
Vernon Baker, who was the only living black veteran awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in World War II, died last week at age 90.
Baker was one of seven black soldiers honored with the Medal of Honor in 1997 for actions in World War II.
The long-overdue recognition came after a 1993 study commissioned by the US Army described systematic racial discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II.
At the time, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to black soldiers who served in World War II. After an exhaustive review of files, the study recommended that several black Distinguished Service Cross recipients have their awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor.