A state historic preservation group will honor Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters for its work in collecting, presenting, and promoting the capital city’s remarkable Civil Rights history.
Preservation South Carolina has named the organization to receive the 2020 Heritage Tourism Award for the “best use South Carolina’s cultural and historic resources in the promotion and development of tourism.”
Mayor Steven Benjamin said, “Columbia SC 63, a relatively small organization, has played a major role in expanding and amplifying our city’s rich and diverse past.”
President Mattie Anderson-Roberson, of the Ward One Reunion Organization, recalled the history of collaboration with Ward One members: oral history interviews, historic landmark designation, photo exhibits, a monument, and a museum.
“That would not have happened without Columbia SC 63,” Mrs. Anderson-Roberson said.
“Columbia SC 63 has assisted a number of historic African American neighborhoods and organizations in preserving and showcasing their stories, including Ward One, Greenview, Wheeler Hill, and the Booker T. Washington High School,” said Mayor Benjamin.
Created as part of a one-year effort to mark the 50th anniversary of 1963 — the height of the Civil Rights Movement — in seven southern cities, Columbia SC 63 has continued in the years since to collect an extensive record of Columbia’s long history of civil rights activism and to establish permanent public displays.
Mayor Benjamin said, “Columbia SC 63 has gone far beyond the original goal of commemorating 1963 by creating a Civil Rights History tour of Main Street that teaches students and educators across the state about our city’s history.”
The Main Street walking tour—seven wayside markers along Main Street of significant events and figures— forms the centerpiece of Columbia SC 63’s work. In addition, staff members speak at schools and community organizations, and host displays of historical materials at city events.
Executive Director Mike Bedenbaugh, of Preservation South Carolina, remarked, “We have a saying in historic preservation that ‘this place matters,’ but the value of our places is the human stories connected to them. And Columbia SC 63 has done an incredible job of making sure everyone who comes to Columbia is aware of the story that took place here that made a difference to so many lives — and the sacrifices that they made.”
“Shedding light on the profound events that occurred in this city during the Civil Rights Movement is imperative,” said Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Columbia SC 63 lead scholar and University of South Carolina history professor. “This is an ongoing opportunity to uncover and to help the public understand how the bold actions of students and the courageous decisions of leaders in our own city helped to transform the nation.”
Congressman James E. Clyburn said at the organization’s launch, “We have lost many of Columbia’s great leaders of that era—Matthew Perry, I. DeQuincey Newman, Modjeska Simkins, Sarah Mae Fleming and Milton Greene, just to name a few. But those of us who survive believe that sharing our stories and theirs will help ensure we never lose sight of our hard-won rights and remain vigilant in protecting them.”
The award is one of several annual awards to be presented at a ceremony later this year. Established in 1995, the Historic Preservation Awards recognize exceptional accomplishments in the preservation, rehabilitation, and interpretation of South Carolina’s architectural and cultural heritage.
The Historic Preservation Awards are sponsored by Preservation South Carolina, the state’s Department of Archives and History, and the Office of the Governor.