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South Carolina Council on Human Relations records

Identifier: SCL-MS-12143

The collection consists of 52.5 linear feet of papers, 1934 to 1976. Its arrangement reflects the organization and programs of the Council and, wherever possible, the original organization of the records by the Council. Six series exist within the collection: Administrative records, Program Files, Topical Files, Clippings, Audio-Visual Material, and Miscellany. There is, by necessity, some overlap among the records filed in related sub-series.

Administrative Records General administrative papers consist principally of correspondence which documents the day-to-day activities of the Council and its leadership. Minutes of meetings, agendas, and other records are present for Council's Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Records regarding local councils consist mainly of correspondence and mailings. The student council, established in 1960, played a significant role in Council affairs and the integration of South Carolina's schools of higher education. Records relating to councils of other states consist chiefly of mailings and reports received by the SCCHR.

Conference records relate to a variety of conferences and workshops held throughout the country regarding human rights, such as Fisk University's Institute on Race Relations, documented here by records dating from 1955 to 1967.

Reports contain the regular reports submitted by Council officers to the Southern Regional Council, as well as progress reports submitted by Council staff to their supervisors, and provide important information on the activities of the Council.

A significant amount of material documents the programs, activities and influence of the Southern Regional Council. Of particular note are annual reports, 1957 to 1975. (The SRC's archives are held by the Robert Woodruff Library at Emory University and are available on microfilm. "New South," the journal of the SRC, is available in the South Caroliniana Library's Book Division.)

Financial papers include membership records as well as reports and other financial records of the Council. Name lists were probably compiled as aids in soliciting new members.

Program files Program files document the main work of the Council. Programs included: Criminal Justice, Economics and Employment, Education, Housing, Operation Gratitude, Institute for Government Officials, Religion, Rural Advancement, Voting, and Welfare.

Criminal Justice files relate chiefly to the Council's program on the Administration of Justice, 1970 to 1974. Related activities included studies of the Law Enforcement Assistance Act (LEAA), Parole, Prosecutorial Discretion, and Sentencing. In 1974, the Council published Sentencing and the Law and Order Syndrome, a critical analysis of the sentencing practices of South Carolina judges. The publication was one of the primary achievements of this program and present in the collection are questionnaires, correspondence, and other records compiled in the study. Council's study of the penal system resulted in the creation of topical files documenting the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the Central Correctional Institute, Richland County Jail, and the organization Black Corrections Officers, which became affiliated with Blacks United for Action in June 1972. The Council also worked to assist the families and friends of inmates and founded, ca. January 1973, the South Carolina Association for Improved Justice, whose work is documented within the collection.

Economics and Employment was a perennial concern of the Council. Its efforts in this area were linked to the Rural Advocacy Program, whose records are maintained as a separate sub-series and described below. Many early job training programs supported by the council were aimed at retraining the rural poor for jobs in an increasingly industrial society. In May 1971 the Council published Black Employment In Selected Agencies of South Carolina State Government. This study documented discrimination in employment and promotion.

Education was another area of grave concern to the Council. It supported the desegregation of South Carolina schools at all levels and served as a source of information for other supporters of desegregation. In 1965 and 1966 the Council was involved in a Head Start program in which in Dillon County alone some four hundred pre-schoolers were enrolled. Head Start programs were intended to benefit local economies as well as helping children further their educations.

The Student Program for Educational and Economic Development for Underprivileged People (Speed-Up) was established in 1966 as a joint effort of the SCCHR and its Student Council. Speed-Up was a tutoring and community development program which utilized students from South Carolina colleges to work with the poor for eight to ten weeks during the summer. A one-year demonstration grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity funded the program from June 1966 through June 1967. Students from twenty colleges worked in thirteen counties across the state. Each community was required to solicit the program and provide an advisory committee to assist in the work in that community. Programs included tutoring of children, adult education, recreation, and college preparation.

Topical files located within the education sub-series include records on individual schools such as Benedict College, organizations such as Columbians For Quality Education, and issues such as the financing of education.

The Council also concerned itself with fair housing and the provision of adequate housing for the poor. As a result of this interest, the Columbia council published the Columbia Tenants' Handbook, which described tenants' rights under the law.

In October 1974 the Council sponsored a three-day Institute for Government designed to educate and orient elected and appointed officials, candidates for office, and community leaders about their obligations and the resources available to them to assist their constituents.

Operation Gratitude was inaugurated late in 1968 to assist Vietnam veterans returning to civilian life in finding employment and housing, and with educational opportunities. Papers, 1968 to ca. 1971, document this effort.

Religious institutions played a critical role in effecting change in human relations in the South. The papers grouped together under Religion, 1941 to 1974, document this. Of particular interest is a topical file relating to the dispute, 1955 to 1956, between the Rev. George Jackson Stafford, minister of the First Baptist Church of Batesburg, and George Bell Timmerman, Sr., and other members of the congregation. The dispute centered on remarks Stafford made in private in support of integration and resulted in Stafford's resignation.

The Rural Advancement Program (RAP) concerned itself with all aspects of rural life. Its records, of necessity, overlap with some other program areas. RAP was inspired by the perception that this was a transitional period for agriculture, with many small farmers leaving or being forced from farming to move into the industrial labor force. Adult education was viewed as a necessity to train displaced farmers for work in an increasingly industrial society. Farmers also composed a large segment of the poor, and RAP and Welfare records include significant overlap, particularly as regards nutrition and poverty. RAP files contain correspondence, reports, grant proposals and reports, and other material. Information relating to the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers, Inc., includes minutes and correspondence, 1966 to 1974.

Voter registration and participation was critically important to the success of the civil rights movement. In 1963 and 1964 the SRC sponsored the Voter Education Project (VEP) in South Carolina. In 1965 that project was replaced by the South Carolina Voter Education Project, a federation of independent organizations concerned with voter registration, civic education, and participation in voting by South Carolina's black population. The Council was an active member of VEP. Voting records document these programs and other Council efforts to further voter participation.

Welfare covers a broad area of social concerns and services. Five linear feet of papers, 1945 to 1975, document the Council's interest in such areas as food stamps, school lunch and other nutritional programs, health care, and poverty. Many Council publications address welfare issues. Keeping The Poor In Their Place was published in 1972 and concerned food stamp programs in South Carolina. A Legal Labyrinth, 1974, was the result of a three year study of poverty and public welfare programs in South Carolina. Questionnaires received from sixty-nine welfare workers and officials in fourteen counties responding about the quality and form of their aid are included in the collection.

In 1969 the Council conducted a statewide survey to determine whether school lunches were both universally available and provided without prejudice. The Council was concerned that many schools throughout the state were negligent in not aggressively utilizing the federal funds which the United States Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Education had earmarked for that purpose. The survey responses and results are present in this series. Other records document the Child Development Program. This program, established in 1971, was renamed the Citizen's Center for Effective Feeding in 1972. The program was funded at least in part by the Community Nutrition Institute, on whose board Paul Matthias served.

Topical Files

Topical files contain information on a variety of subjects and organizations.


The Council maintained an extensive file of newspaper and magazine clippings for their own reference needs. These were chiefly drawn from South Carolina newspapers. The clippings have been arranged in a manner similar to the Council's other papers.

Audiovisual material

Audio-Visual material includes sound recordings made by the Council of meetings and interviews, plus a small number of photographs. Of particular interest are recordings of interviews, ca. August 1974, with finalists for the position of Executive Director, including Lawrence Toliver and David Landholt. Both men were offered the position. A list of questions and notes on responses are located in the Administrative Series (Staff, Executive Director Search, 1974). Also present are miscellaneous photographs and a recording of remarks by Dr. Lucius Holsey Pitts, President, Miles College, Birmingham, Ala., before the Council, 19 February 1967.


Miscellaneous files are broken down into three sub-series: General, Calendars, and Reference Material. General, ca. 1950 to 1975, consists chiefly of notes of Alice Spearman Wright. Calendars are daily appointment logs of Alice Spearman Wright and other staff members dating chiefly from 1958 to 1967. Reference Material, 1943 to 1971, consists of handouts, pamphlets and books regarding human relations collected and disseminated by the Council.


  • 1934-1976


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.


52.5 Linear Feet (42 cartons)


South Carolina Council on Human Relations (SCCHR) played a key role in fostering better living and social conditions for African-Americans and promoting racial harmony within South Carolina and the South generally. Its archives document the movement for civil rights within South Carolina during the twentieth century.

Beginnings The Council's history dates to the formation in 1919 of the South Carolina Committee on Interracial Cooperation. This committee later became the South Carolina Division of the Southern Regional Council (SRC), a national organization formed to promote civil rights. The South Carolina Council on Human Relations was formed in 1957 as an affiliate of the SRC. As did its predecessor organizations, the Council evolved over time, responding to changes in South Carolina society and the perception by Council's leadership of its role and mission.

Reorganization: 1960s and 1970s In 1963 the Council severed its formal affiliation with the SRC and became an independent body. The bylaws adopted at that time stated its mandate: "to carry educational program for the improvement of educational, economic, civic, and racial conditions in the state in an endeavor to promote greater unity in South Carolina...." It was a small but vigorous organization engaged in a number of programs. An undated descriptive flyer notes: "The Council serves as an alert `seeing-eye' and information and distribution center, and provides sounding-board, clearing-house, and rallying-point functions."

By 1974 the Council had witnessed dramatic change both in South Carolina and in the work it was attempting. Its new role was to attack "the unfair and discriminatory distribution of income, wealth and privilege" and to promote basic human rights such as "health, equal opportunity, a decent standard of living, dissent, effective and progressive education, freedom of information and protection from political oppression." This platform did not generate the support necessary to maintain a viable organization, and in 1975 the Council was dissolved.

The Council was a true statewide organization. Its headquarters was located in Columbia; local affiliates existed at various times in Aiken, Charleston, Clemson, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, Rock Hill, and other smaller communities; and a council involving college students was established in 1960. At its peak the SCCHR numbered approximately three thousand members.

Programs The organization sought to carry out its mission through a variety of programs. Long term programs studied criminal justice, education, economics and employment, welfare, and voter participation. However, a significant contribution was also made by the Council's role as a resource center, liaison for persons interested in human rights, and proponent of and recruiter for human rights. For example, an early impact was achieved by its hosting of bi-racial annual meetings. The solicitation of members, particularly during its early history, was aggressive. If a sympathetic letter appeared on the editorial page of a small newspaper in the state its author might receive a warm letter from Executive Director Alice Spearman applauding the person's views, pointing out similarities between these views and the Council's credo, and inviting the individual to become an active member of the Council.

Officers and Members The history of the Council is also the history of its membership and officers. From 1955 to its dissolution in 1975 the Council had only three executive directors. Alice Norwood Spearman Wright (1902-1989), served as Recording Secretary beginning in January 1954 and became Executive Director in January 1955. She held that position until her retirement in September 1967. Alice Spearman (she would marry Marion Wright in 1970) led the Council through the crucible of civil rights.

Spearman's successor, Paul Matthias (b. 1938), was a young Methodist minister. His tenure lasted from 1967 through June 1974. Matthias guided the Council through a difficult period of transition in which it attempted to adapt to the changing climate of racial relations in South Carolina. In June 1973 the Council adopted the name South Carolina Council for Human Rights. In a news release, Council president Theo Mitchell stated this action was intended to "reflect a fundamental change that had already taken place in the nature and direction of our organization" and noted that the Council was directing its "efforts toward the elimination of social and economic injustice in our state." New Council programs emphasized the study of the criminal justice and penal systems, welfare programs, and other social needs.

By 1974 human rights councils remained active in only five states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Paul Matthias resigned in June 1974, and a divisive dispute between the Board and the Executive Committee erupted over the selection of his successor. Lawrence J. Toliver (b. 1943) eventually assumed the directorship. Toliver, an African-American, had previously served the Council as head of its Administration of Justice program. The Council continued to experience difficulties in maintaining its membership and attracting funding. By 1975 the local Columbia council had ceased to function and membership in the South Carolina Council hovered near five hundred, down almost two-thirds from the 1970 total. In June 1975 Toliver resigned, and shortly thereafter the state council was dissolved. At least one local council continued to operate for a time.

Other principals in the Council included presidents Marion Wright, 1945; James McBride Dabbs, ca. 1947 to 1951; Courteney Siceloff, 1958 to 1960; Mordecai Johnson, 1971; Theo Mitchell, 1973; and Ed Beardsley, 1974. Other staff included Leonidas S. James (1892-1973), an African-American who headed the Rural Advocacy Program from February 1963 to December 1969 and was employed jointly with the National Sharecroppers Fund for at least part of that time; Elizabeth Cowan Ledeen (d. 1969) who held a variety of Council positions through the 1960s; and associate directors James Thomas McCain (b. 1905), whose service began in 1955, and Ed McSweeney, who served during the 1970s and left the Council in 1974.

Container List

Collection Inventory:

Administrative files Boxes 1-15 General Boxes 1-7 Local Chapters Boxes 9-10 Student Chapter Box 10 Councils, Other States Box 10 Conferences Box 10 Southern Regional Council Boxes 11-13 Finances Boxes 13-15 Program Files Boxes 16-30 Criminal Justice Boxes 16-19 Economics and Employment Box 19 Education Boxes 19-23 Housing Boxes 23-24 Operation Gratitude Box 24 Political Institute for Government Officials Box 24 Religion Box 24 Rural Advancement Boxes 25-26 Voting Box 26 Welfare Boxes 26-29 Miscellaneous Box 30 Reference Material Box 30 Topical Files Boxes 30-34 Clippings Boxes 35-40 Audio-Visual Records Box 41 Miscellany Box 42

Collection Inventory

Administrative files
Boxes 1-15
Boxes 1-7
Local Chapters
Boxes 9-10
Student Chapter
Box 10
Councils, Other States
Box 10
Box 10
Southern Regional Council
Boxes 11-13
Boxes 13-15
Program Files
Boxes 16-30
Criminal Justice
Boxes 16-19
Economics and Employment
Box 19
Boxes 19-23
Boxes 23-24
Operation Gratitude
Box 24
Political Institute for Government Officials
Box 24
Box 24
Rural Advancement
Boxes 25-26
Box 26
Boxes 26-29
Box 30
Reference Material
Box 30
Topical Files
Boxes 30-34
Boxes 35-40
Audio-Visual Records
Box 41
Box 42

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

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