A traveling exhibit sharing the history of the civil rights movement in South Carolina has made its way to Orangeburg.

People are “missing a lot of their history if they don’t come see it,” Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith said.

“A lot of these pictures I’ve seen many times, but I’m impressed by everything. It just brings back memories of how far we’ve come but yet how far we have to go,” she said.

The exhibit opened Saturday at the Orangeburg County Library, located at 1645 Russell Street, in Orangeburg. It will remain through the end of November.

The exhibit is called “Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement.”

Orangeburg is the third stop on the traveling exhibit’s tour.

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It was first exhibited in Sumter at the Sumter County Museum and then in Columbia at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park, said Dr. Bobby Donaldson, executive director of the University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research.

The exhibit includes tall displays of digitized photographs, documents, newspaper clippings and descriptions of South Carolina’s role in the civil rights movement.

For the exhibit’s stop in Orangeburg, the USC Civil Rights History and Research team curated digitized local newspaper clippings and photos.

Donaldson said the team supplements the traveling exhibit with the additional materials for each place they visit.

“It truly takes me back to when I went to college, which was a couple of years after we integrated the (public) schools (in Orangeburg), and to even marry a man who took leadership and responsibility for what was going on during the time,” said Evelyn Dash Cunningham of Columbia. She visited the exhibit with her brother and sister.

She spied a photo of her late husband, Robert Cunningham, displayed from a digitized copy of a March 1967 article from The State newspaper.

Robert Cunningham was one of the four South Carolina State University students who led others to boycott classes to get then-president Benner C. Turner to resign.

The exhibit “brought back memories, and some kind of emotional,” Cunningham said.

“But I still know that we’ve come a long way. Revisiting that helps any healing that still needs to take place,” she said.

She was one of the first 16 Black students to integrate Orangeburg High School in 1964.

“Even when I didn’t know it, my strength came from the Lord,” she said.

“We grew up in a praying home and my family prayed,” she said.

“Prayer was one of the key factors that gave us strength to do what we did,” she added.

All these years later, she said “Growth is taking place in relationships.”

She noted that some of the white students from her graduating high school class have reached out to her.

“It’s great. They see I hold no animosity at all,” she said.

Orangeburg City Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt said she plans to bring Project Life: Positeen students to see the exhibit. She’s the founder of the after-school program.

Keitt recalled her living in segregated Orangeburg.

“I lived through it but I’m glad I did because I appreciate what we have done to get us where we are,” she said.

“It’s well done,” she said of the exhibit.

“I’m telling everybody I know to come see it because they need to know these stories,” she said.

Congressman James E. Clyburn’s Constituent Services Supervisor John Rickenbacker spoke at the event.

“We think of Orangeburg as a Birmingham or Greensboro of South Carolina, because this is where it all began,” Rickenbacker said, referring to two Southern cities that played pivotal roles in the Civil Rights Movement.

“A lot of us are aware of 1968,” Rickenbacker said, recalling the year of the event known as the Orangeburg Massacre. South Carolina State College students Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond, along with 19-year-old Wilkinson High School student Delano Middleton, were killed and dozens of people were injured after law enforcement fired on protesters seeking to integrate a local bowling alley.

“But there was a 1954 in Orangeburg and protests in 1955, 1960 and 1961,” he said.

As a classroom component to the exhibit, K-12 teachers are invited to information sessions to learn about incorporating the exhibit into their lessons.

Those information sessions will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 6 and Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the following times:

• 4:30 p.m. for kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers

• 5:30 p.m. for seventh through 12th-grade teachers

Both sessions will take place in the multipurpose room at the Orangeburg County Library.

The exhibit is made possible locally through partnerships between the Orangeburg County Library, University of South Carolina Libraries, South Carolina Humanities, University of South Carolina Center for Civil Rights History and Research and Center for Creative Partnerships.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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