Center for Civil Rights History and Research

"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."  The late Maya Angelou's words spoken at President Bill Clinton's inauguration on January 21,1993, ring true this morning, for this campus, for this state of South Carolina and for the United States. 

In 2013, as Carolina commemorated the 50th anniversary of USC's desegregation, our students had an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from two of the university's three desegregation pioneers—Henrie Monteith Treadwell and James Solomon.  In preparing for that event, I learned about the role that South Carolina had in national events, roles that were never taught in NYC public schools and that I'm pretty sure aren't taught in South Carolina public schools.

The Center will become a central repository for South Carolina's Civil Rights story, which, in turn, is a central part of America's Civil Rights story.     

The commemoration was a poignant reminder that change often comes with great sacrifice, courage and continued hard work, as Congressman Clyburn and many others who are joining us this afternoon can attest to.  Understanding this, our university renewed its commitment to keep pressing forward.  Today's announcement is a big step in that direction.   

By 2013, with the guidance of Dean Tom McNally, we had already built a substantial political collection with works from key South Carolina figures, but we soon realized that we needed to establish an additional initiative on campus that would zero in on the state's unique Civil Rights history.  And we also realized that it was important that this place be accessible to students and faculty as well as scholars worldwide.   

The Center for Civil Rights History and Research will be that place, and will house a substantial and growing collection that will provide the current, and all future generations with the stories of the ongoing struggle for equality and social justice in South Carolina.  This announcement is timely.  After the tragic summer at Mother Emanuel, followed by the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds, it is apparent that the Center will play a critical role.  The collections housed here will put current and past events into context and as we learn from the past, we are able to create a better future.  

The Center will be nothing less than a place to spark conversations with the hope for meaningful interactions and reconciliation.  The Center will become a central repository for South Carolina's Civil Rights story, which, in turn, is a central part of America's Civil Rights story.