The story of the Civil Rights struggle in Columbia is being told in an unusual way. Along the west side of Main Street, between Gervais on the south and Laurel on the north are wayside signs telling the story of various events in the 1960s related to Civil Rights.
As time has passed, most of the physical landmarks are now gone. For example, the Woolworth's that was the scene of various sit-ins and demonstrations, is now the Marriott hotel on Hampton Street.
There are 7 markers. 2 on the corner of Main & Gervais, 2 on the corner of Main & Washington, 1 on the corner of Main and Hampton(the aforementioned Woolworth's), 1 outside the Columbia Art Museum and one outside City Hall.
Together they tell the story of the Civil Rights struggle in Columbia starting with the beginnings of the movement and protests at the State House and working through such events as the integration of the city bus system and how the system changed. The last marker, outside City Hall, tells of the efforts of city leaders, particularly Mayor Lester Bates, to desegregate Columbia.
The markers were erected by Columbia SC63 which was formed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights era. A quote from the first marker on Main & Gervais perhaps says it best: "Too many of our storied have never been heard. A complete rendering of South Carolina's Civil Rights Movement and it's impact on the quest for democracy and social justice does not exist. By gathering images and testimony, the mission of the Columbia SC63 project is to ensure that a more accurate and expansive history becomes familiar to all."
Next time you're walking up Main Street, take a moment to look at these markers and remember a story that matters