Capitol City First in Poignant Civil Rights Moments

New initiative will highlight SC's contributions to era

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By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- When you think of landmark cities that had a major impact on the 1963 Civil Rights Movement, Selma, Birmingham and Memphis come to mind, not necessarily Columbia, South Carolina. That is, until now.

"Columbia was both a meeting ground and a battle ground over these issues."

Issues historian Ramon Jackson refers to are the little known contributions the Capitol City made to an era that changed the course of our nation's history: the 1963 Civil Rights Movement.

"We want to capture, preserve and share the city's history."

To do that, Columbia one of several Southeastern cities participating in the 50 Years Forward Initiative, specifically Columbia63, a year-long project that will highlight events that began here and fueled change everywhere else.

Case in point, Edwards Vs. South Carolina.

"[Hundreds of college students] marched from Zion Baptist Church to to the State House where they were arrested, and that led to a case that allowed for demonstrations all over the country to be held on state property," said spokesperson for the Historic Columbia Foundation, Carrie Phillips.

Another example is at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, it was Sarah Mae Flemming who won an appeal for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man 18 months prior to Rosa Parks.

Columbia63 organizers say the impact of highlighting significant South Carolina historic events goes far beyond race.

"We can draw people outside to this region, and when you do that, you're increasing the local economy," said Kim Jamieson with the Columbia Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"You are only able to clearly understand where you are as a community once you understand where you've been," said City of Columbia spokesperson Sam Johnson.

Malcolm X demonstrated in Columbia. Henri Monteith
Treadwell broke barriers at the University of South Carolina. Lennie Glover helped to integrate Main Street shops. Now, 50 years later, it's all coming to light in a way Columbia63 organizers hope the Capitol City won't soon forget.

The official launch to the Columbia63 Initiative kicks off Thursday at 1:00pm at Zion Baptist Church, 801 Washington Street in Columbia.

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