Civil rights legacy in Georgetown to be highlighted in ‘Eyewitnesses to the Movement’ events

18 Nov

Civil rights legacy in Georgetown to be highlighted in ‘Eyewitnesses to the Movement’ events

Civil rights legacy in Georgetown to be highlighted in ‘Eyewitnesses to the Movement’ events

The great-granddaughter of the first Reconstruction House member will join two civil rights groundbreakers in a Dec. 8 program, “Eyewitnesses to the Movement: Georgetown and the Civil Rights Movement” here on the Hammock Coast.

It is one of a series of events highlighting the area’s importance in the civil rights movement in the United States.

Lorna Rainey, photojournalist Cecil Williams and activist Dr. Cleveland Sellers will speak at the Howard Center auditorium in Georgetown at 6 p.m., with a reception following. The event is co-sponsored by Georgetown County Parks and Recreation.

Rainey is the great-granddaughter of Joseph H. Rainey, a Georgetown resident who was the first African American seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was enslaved in Georgetown, worked as a barber in Charleston, escaped to Bermuda in 1861, and returned to serve in South Carolina’s constitutional convention. He served in the state legislature before his election to Congress. A park in historic Georgetown is named after him.

Dr. Cleveland Sellers, a scholar and former president of Voorhees College, was a civil rights activist in the 1960s. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, the Selma march, and served as the program director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was wounded in the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre in which law enforcement killed three unarmed students and severely wounded nearly 30 others. Sellers was charged and convicted but later pardoned.

Cecil J. Williams is South Carolina’s foremost civil rights photojournalist. He captured images of iconic figures and events of the Civil Rights Movement, including Thurgood Marshall, Harvey Gantt, Dr. Henrie Monteith Treadwell, and others, across the state. He was the South Carolina photojournalist for Jet magazine, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Baltimore Afro-American, and other publications. He recently established the South Carolina Civil Rights Museum in Orangeburg.

Lorna Rainey

“We are honored to host Lorna Rainey for this event in Georgetown,” said Bobby Donaldson, executive director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research. “We connected while researching her grandfather’s extraordinary life and career and became friends. She will be joined by two of my longtime colleagues and teachers, Dr. Cleveland Sellers and the legendary photographer Cecil J. Williams of Orangeburg. We look forward to an informative and enriching conversation.

The event is one of three on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast to celebrate the statewide tour of “Justice for All,” the traveling exhibition which ends its run in mid-December.

On Dec. 7, Donaldson will speak on the topic of “Justice for All: South Carolina’s Lowcountry and the American Civil Rights Movement” at 3 p.m., at the Southern Georgetown Library, 4187 Powell Road, Georgetown. Donaldson’s talk will highlight the remarkable work by individuals from Georgetown from the 1860s to the 1970s. His talk will connect listeners with historical photographs and other items in the exhibition.

Dr. Cleveland Sellers

On Dec. 9, the Center will host a screening of “After Sherman,” a documentary directed by Jon-Sesrie Goff at 6:30 p.m. in the Howard Center auditorium. The documentary follows Goff to ancestral land in Georgetown that his family purchased after emancipation. A reception at 5:45 at the Howard Center will precede the event. The event is co-sponsored by Georgetown County Parks and Recreation.

The events are part of the Justice for All traveling exhibition, on display at the Southern Georgetown Library through Dec. 16. Organized by the University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research, the “Justice for All” traveling exhibition uses oral history recordings, news film footage, photographs, postcards, newspapers and letters to highlight overlooked chapters in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. The Southern Georgetown County Public Library, 4187 Powell Road, Georgetown, is open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The library is closed on Friday and Sunday, except as noted. Admission to the exhibition and the programs are free.

Georgetown County Library Director Dwight McInvaill said, “These exciting and informative programs –along with the Justice for All traveling exhibit– will bring important aspects of South Carolina’s Civil Rights history vibrantly to life for persons of all ages and backgrounds. Young and old alike are encouraged to attend in order to experience a transformative part of our nation’s pathway forward to greater equality and openness for all. The Georgetown County Library along with Georgetown County Parks and Recreation is delighted to facilitate this learning opportunity in collaboration with the Center for Civil Rights History and Research of the University of South Carolina.”

Cecil J. Williams

“With the support of generous institutions across South Carolina, we have been able to take ‘Justice for All’ on a tour of the state,” Donaldson said. “Helping students and others to learn the remarkable history of our state has been rewarding. We’ve also helped civil rights veterans revisit their past through the exhibited items and through programs. These programs at Georgetown promise to make a fitting capstone to our tour.”

Traveling trunks with materials and lesson plans for students are available on request. Community groups and school groups are welcome. For information about traveling trunks or our other initiatives such as oral history interviews, please email the Center,

Georgetown is the final visit in the two-year tour of the state. The “Justice for All” traveling exhibition has visited Columbia, Sumter, Orangeburg, Hartsville, Spartanburg, and Beaufort. The traveling exhibition is based on the 2019 archival exhibition “Justice for All” that the Center created collaboratively with South Carolina Humanities, University of South Carolina Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences. The traveling version is supported with funding from the Williams Companies as part of a $1.5 million gift, and by South Carolina Humanities and Central Carolina Community Foundation.

The Howard Center auditorium is located at 1610 Hawkins St. in Georgetown.


The Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce oversees marketing for Georgetown County under the moniker and registered trademark of South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®. The Hammock Coast is one of South Carolina’s most popular vacation destinations, wowing visitors with some of the Palmetto State’s premier beaches, award-winning golf, Lowcountry charm and abundant eco-activities. At the heart of the area’s appeal is the casual charm it provides, delivering a surplus of family-friendly activities and is located between Myrtle Beach to the north and Charleston to the south. The Hammock Coast can also be found on the social media sites Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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