2018-07-06 / Arts & Entertainment

History lessons on Columbia’s Main Street

Contributed by Bobby Donaldson, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of History Center for Civil Rights History and Research University of South Carolina


Columbia SC 63 Project’s walking tour Columbia SC 63 Project’s walking tour On a warm Monday morning, the Columbia SC 63 Project launched a special civil rights history walking tour designed for young audiences.

Led by University of South Carolina history professor Dr. Bobby Donaldson and project coordinator Jonathon Johnson, the tour began at the South Carolina Statehouse African American Monument and traveled down Main Street.

Traversing six blocks, the trail covered a range of topics, including NAACP marches at the Statehouse in the 1960s, landmark sit-in cases at downtown drugstores, and the determined efforts of a 19-year old woman named Sarah Mae Flemming who challenged racial segregation on city buses in June 1954.

Additionally, the tour focused on Zion Baptist Church, Bethel AME Church, Sidney Park CME Church, Allen University, Benedict College, and the Township Auditorium as civil rights sites that hosted national figures such as Thurgood Marshall, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Ella Baker, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X.

Donaldson, who directs USC’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research, noted that the tours are designed to reach diverse audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

“Columbia 63 aims to make history exciting and engaging for students and their parents alike,” Donaldson said. “ The Statehouse and Columbia’s Main Street serve as a great classroom for residents and visitors to learn more about the people, events, and places associated with the long struggle for civil rights and equality in our city and state. After our tours, we want people to be better informed about history. We also want them to come away with more questions about our past.”

After seeing a wayside marker about Sarah Mae Flemming on the corner of Main and Washington streets, Lilly Cole, a seventh grader at Hand Middle School, remarked, “I did not know that there was someone months before Rosa Parks, right here in Columbia.”

Flemming’s history also resonated with Dezmond Chavous, a sophomore at North Augusta High School. “In eighth grade, we learned South Carolina history, but we never heard of Ms. Flemming or other people from my state who played important roles in the Civil Rights Movement.”

In addition to guided walks along the Main Street trail, Columbia SC 63 leads driving tours around the city, presents to schools and community organizations, conducts oral interviews, and hosts public programs, exhibits, and lectures.

Launched over five years with the guidance of Mayor Steve Benjamin and the support of Columbia’s City Council, the Columbia SC 63 project is housed in the historic Modjeska Monteith Simkins Home on Marion Street.

Through partnerships with Historic Columbia, USC, Experience Columbia, Richland Library, Nickelodeon Theatre, the Renaissance Foundation, the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, and a host of organizations in the Midlands and through-out the state, the project works to preserve and promote the city’s rich civil rights history.

Columbia SC 63’s next public tour begins at the Statehouse African American Monument Sunday, July 8 from 4–5 p.m.

The kids’ edition walking tour will take place Monday, July 9 at 9 a.m. To sign up for the tour or for more information, call 803-851-5064, email columbiasc63osm@gmail.com, or visit columbiasc63.com.

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