Ingram Lecture speaker shares stories of South Carolina’s black history

February 21, 2023

Presbyterian College remembered the forgotten heroes of South Carolina’s black history Monday during the annual Dr. Booker T. Ingram Jr. Convocation and Lecture.

CBS political contributor, political consultant, and native South Carolinian Antjuan Seawright said black history is a collection of stories passed down from generation to generation. Throughout his life, Seawright said many of those stories are of the same black Americans – Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“But the older I get, the more I realize it is so important that we pause and reflect on the history that’s right in front of us,” he said.

Seawright said South Carolina’s black history includes stories like George Elmore of Holly Hill, whose 1947 lawsuit ended the corrupt practice of preventing black voters from casting their ballots in the Democratic primaries.

He also told the stories of Levi and Vida Pearson, who sued the Clarendon County School District for not providing a single bus for black students to ride to school and Briggs vs. Elliott. This landmark school desegregation case ultimately led to Brown vs. Board of Education and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 that ended segregated schools.

Seawright shared the story of Isaac Woodard, who fought in World War II and, in 1946, was beaten and blinded by police officers in Batesburg for asking a bus driver to let him use the restroom. An all-white jury acquitted the officers, but afterward, President Harry Truman began desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces.

Closer to home – approximately nine miles from PC’s campus – the Rev. David Kennedy made black history by befriending a former grand dragon of the local Ku Klux Klan and the owner of the world-famous Redneck Shop. This store sold racist memorabilia and was an unofficial Klan museum.

Kennedy’s relationship with Michael Burden, who eventually deeded the Echo Theater to Kennedy and his church, inspired the film “Burden,” starring Garrett Hedlund and Forest Whitaker.

Seawright said their stories and many more are why he continues to fight for the rights of disenfranchised minorities. As a frequent commentator, Seawright said he is often asked to explain critical race theory.

“I have no idea what it really is,” he said. “So, when people ask me about CRT, I say, ‘We have a critical race problem in this county – and that ain’t no damn theory.’ I also tell them that I know my family’s history. And I know the history of this country. And I know the history right here in South Carolina – and how I’ll go to my grave before I let a few people try to whitewash and diminish the contributions that blacks have made to the United States.”