Bitter Resistance: Clarendon County, South Carolina
Some of the plaintiffs of the Briggs case and their supporters, 1950
(Courtesy of Cecil Williams)
Mr. and Mrs. Harry Briggs
Harry Briggs’s name appeared first on the complaint. A Navy veteran, he worked as an automobile mechanic. His wife, Eliza, was a maid in a nearby motel. Like many who signed the petition, they were fired from their jobs for their courage and eventually left Summerton to find work.
(Courtesy of Nathaniel Briggs)
Outspoken and fearless, Modjeska Simpkins was one of the leaders of the NAACP in South Carolina from the 1930s to the 1970s. In the Briggs case, she helped draft the petition for integrated schools. As a member of the board of directors of the black-owned Victory Savings Bank, she helped arrange loans for some people of Summerton who lost their jobs for supporting the case.
(Courtesy of Modjeska Simkins Collection, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina)
To pursue the complaint in court, Rev. Joseph De Laine turned to Harold Boulware, the leading NAACP attorney in South Carolina. Boulware knew that the national office of the NAACP was looking for school cases to challenge segregation, and he invited Thurgood Marshall to South Carolina. Boulware, also a graduate of the Howard University School of Law, was the first African American to pass the bar in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
(Courtesy of Harolyn Boulware)
Clark conducting doll test
On May 24, 1951, Kenneth Clark, a psychology professor at City College of New York, came to Summerton. Using dolls of different colors, he tested the children of Scott’s Branch school to measure how they felt about themselves. He asked the children to show him the “nice” doll, the “bad” doll, and the doll that “looks like you.”
Ten of the 16 children said the brown doll looked bad. The results of these tests strongly suggested that forced segregation damaged the self-image of African American children.
(Courtesy of Library of Congress)
To probe the effects of segregation, Kenneth Clark asked the black children of Summerton to color these drawings. After they colored the other items on the page, he asked the children to color one of the figures to look “like yourself” and the other “how you would like little children to be.”
Fifty-two percent colored the other child white or an irrelevant color. The South Carolina case was the first time this kind of psychological evidence was used in major school desegregation lawsuits. It would become a key argument in the NAACP’s future cases before the Supreme Court.
(Lent by Kenneth Clark Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress )