A provocative look into civil rights progress in the Palmetto State from activists, statesmen, and historians
South Carolina has long been the nexus of struggles in Southern race relations yet no definitive history has chronicled the dynamic social changes wrought in the Palmetto State during the civil rights era or interpreted the inspirational efforts of the state's reform-minded activists. Toward the Meeting of the Waters represents a watershed moment in civil rights history—bringing together voices of leading historians alongside recollections from central participants to provide the first comprehensive history of the civil rights movement as experienced by black and white South Carolinians.
Edited by Winfred B. Moore Jr. and Orville Vernon Burton, this work originated with a highly publicized landmark conference on civil rights held at the Citadel in Charleston. The volume's opening section assesses the transition of South Carolina leaders from defiance to moderate enforcement of federally mandated integration and includes commentary by former governor and U.S. senator Ernest F. Hollings and former governor John C. West. The next sections recall defining moments of white-on-black violence and aggression to set the context for understanding the efforts of reformers such as Levi G. Byrd and Septima Poinsette Clark and for interpreting key episodes of white resistance. Emerging from these essays is arresting evidence that, although South Carolina did not experience as much violence as many other Southern states, the civil rights movement here was more fiercely embattled than previously acknowledged.
The section entitled "Retrospectives: From Clarendon to Clemson, 1951–1963" forms an oral history of the era as it was experienced by a mixture of locally and nationally recognized participants, including historians such as John Hope Franklin and Tony Badger as well as civil rights activists Joseph A. De Laine Jr., Beatrice Brown Rivers, Charles McDew, Constance Curry, Matthew J. Perry Jr., Harvey B. Gantt, and Cleveland Sellers Jr. The volume concludes with essays by historians Gavin Wright, Dan Carter, and Charles Joyner, who bring this story to the present day and examine the legacy of the civil rights movement in South Carolina from a modern perspective.
Toward the Meeting of the Waters also includes thirty-seven photographs from the period, most of then by Cecil Williams and many published here for the first time. Collectively the volume's components form a much-needed account of the high stakes involved in the civil rights movement, of how far South Carolina has progressed, and of those battles for equality still ongoing.
Winfred B. Moore Jr. is a professor of history and dean of humanities and social sciences at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the coeditor of five earlier books of essays, including Warm Ashes: Issues in Southern History at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century.
Orville Vernon Burton is the Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture at Coastal Carolina University. His numerous books on Southern history include The Age of Lincoln and In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina.
"This is an important book. Through a wonderful variety of forms—including memoirs, discussions, essays, and photographs—it chronicles a turbulent period in our state's history. The South Carolina of today is a product of that period. Toward the Meeting of the Waters informs us about how much our state and its people have changed since the 1950s, but, it also informs us that, in terms of race relations, we still have a way to go."—Walter Edgar, author of South Carolina: A History and editor of The South Carolina Encyclopedia
"The proceedings of this unprecedented gathering of politicians, activists, observers, and analysts should be read by all South Carolinians—the many who no doubt never heard these stories, and others lest they forget—but it will be of much broader interest as well. It can serve as a model for the sort of sober accounting long overdue in many other states."—John Shelton Reed, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill