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  • 1963 march on statehouse

UofSC civil rights center to reveal historical marker for landmark protest

On Tuesday, March 2, the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina will commemorate the courage of hundreds of students who marched on the South Carolina State House 60 years ago, leading to landmark changes in the Civil Rights Movement. 

At noon, the center, along with state and local leaders, will unveil a new historic marker near the corner of Gervais and Main streets, across the street from the Statehouse. The ceremony will be livestreamed to the public. Register here to receive the livestream link. 

The historic protest took place March 2, 1961, when hundreds of high school and college students marched to the State House to protest racial inequality. After singing patriotic songs and religious hymns, 189 of the protestors were arrested for disturbing the peace. 

Almost two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. South Carolina that the state had violated the protestors’ First Amendment rights. That ruling became a legal precedent protecting the rights of protestors.  

“Sixty years ago, students and NAACP leaders from across South Carolina confronted fear and animosity to march on the State House,” said Bobby Donaldson, director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research. “As they braved jail cells and court trials, they left their mark on the state of South Carolina and the nation. 

“Their victory before the United States Supreme Court fortified the rights of protesters in ongoing struggles for justice and equality.  As we dedicate a historical marker, we honor the courage of young women and men who refused to back down in their quest for justice for all.” 

The unveiling ceremony will include comments from James Edwards, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, as well as South Carolina state representative Leola Robinson-Simpson, another one of the original protestors who was arrested. Jean Toal, former South Carolina Supreme Court Justice, who participated in the 1961 protest but was not arrested, will discuss the case’s legal significance. 

Donaldson and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin also will offer comments. 

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