The University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research held the inaugural South Carolina Civil Rights Teacher Initiative this summer. The purpose of the institute was to educate middle and high school teachers about the civil rights history of the state and connect them to primary sources on the subject so they can improve their classroom instruction.
The teachers examined materials from the civil rights era that was part of a new archive received by the university’s department of rare books and special collections. Other activities included field trips to Booker T. Washington High School, Zion Baptist Church and a bus tour of other historical places significant in Columbia’s civil rights past. Perhaps most importantly, teachers got to listen to and ask questions of civil rights veterans who led protests, organized meetings and fought for equal rights decades ago and continue to share their stories and advocate for change today.
The project, funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, was led by Bonny J. Donaldson, an associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Donaldson is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in Atlanta.
“There is great work to be done in this community and our state as we teach and document this important history, and I’m grateful to have foot soldiers in the classroom,” Dr. Donaldson says.