February is Black History Month, the month when Americans celebrate the achievements of African Americans throughout the history of America. From Crispus Attucks, the first African American to lose his life serving in the American Revolution. To Oprah Winfrey, the first female African American billionaire. Whether it's literature, sports/entertainment, military service, politics, African Americans have made substantial contributions to this nation.
One particular aspect that gets highlighted in February is the civil rights movement. There were many notable African Americans working with other races to achieve a goal of civil equality through boycotts, civil disobedience, or other acts of protest. The faculty and staff at Wil Lou Gray commemorate the accomplishments of those who have made sacrifices for equality. The staff has visited historical sites to reflect and pay homage to those that were selfless in their efforts.
In February 2016, WLGOS faculty and staff visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, located in Atlanta, Ga. They were able to tour the grounds and museum portion of the park, which featured mementos from Dr. King's life. Also at the park, they had the opportunity to visit his childhood home as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church where both Dr. King Sr and Jr. were both pastors. Before heading back to campus, they visited the burial site of Dr. King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, to reflect on their lives and sacrifices.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, often refereed to as Mother Emmanuel is located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is also the oldest African American church in Charleston. On June 17, 2015 Mother Emanuel was the target of an unspeakable act of domestic terrorism. During bible study that evening, one gunman walked into the church and murdered nine parishioners and forever changed the live of many others. This was one of the most despicable acts against people of color in recent years. The tragedy received much state, national, and global attention. This spawned tremendous support for the church and community of Charleston. In February 2017, the WLGOS faculty and staff was able to visit and pay their respects to those faithful churchgoers that were killed so savagely. During the visit, they were received by a trustee of the church that gave a detailed account of the church's history, which dates back to the first building being constructed in 1816. While at Mother Emanuel, the WLGOS staff was able to hear a very emotional description of the tragedy that took place there.
In February 2018, the WLGOS faculty and staff traveled to Orangeburg, South Carolina to visit two historical landmarks. They visited All Star Bowling Lanes (which was an all-white establishment in 1968). This discrimination against people of color put the bowling alley in violation of The Civil Right of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. On Monday night, February 6 1968, a group of black students from nearby South Carolina State and Claflin Colleges came to the bowling alley and refused to leave. On the next night, another group of African Americans returned, and 15 were arrested. Later, On February 8th of that year, 300 students appeared in the parking lot in front of the All-Star Bowling, and were apprehended by 100 local, county, and state law enforcement officers. As students began moving forward in protest, the officers beat them with batons. While the student demonstrators worked their way back the colleges, they broke car and store windows, and Governor Robert E. McNair mobilized a National Guard unit armed with shotguns and rifles. That night on the campus of South Carolina State, protesters and guardsmen were stationed at the entrance of the school. There, guardsmen claim they heard gunfire. This in turn caused them to open fire on the students, killing three and wounding at least 28 others. SCSU commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre by having several events reflecting on that tragic day. One of those events included a panel discussion about American civil rights of the past and present. The panel was highlighted by Dr. Cleveland Seller, a civil rights activist, and one of the 28 wounded during the shooting. Other attendees were filmmaker and civil rights activist Judi Richardson, and Dr Seller's son, Barkari Sellers. Bakari is a former South Carolina politician (State House of Representatives) and current CNN political analyst. Also, Other victims and survivors of the Orangeburg Massacre were in attendance.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, a South Carolina native, was a civil rights activist, educator, minister, and acclaimed author. Born in 1894 to former slaves on a tenant farm in the Epworth Community of Greenwood County, He helped farm the land with his eight siblings and parents. Just like many African Americans of the time, the Mays family experienced many instances of racism. At an early age, Dr. Mays felt that education would be the way to enact change. He had and over whelming desire for education, which was met with resistance from his father. Eventually, Dr. Mays left the family farm to attend high school at South Carolina State to start his path of achieving that goal. After completing high school, he earned his BA degree from Bates College in Maine, and soon after, he stared teaching mathematics at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He later earned his graduate degree in Divinity from the University of Chicago and became a professor of Divinity at Howard University. He eventually became the President of Morehouse College. Before then, he made an impactful trip to India. While there in India, he met with Mahatma Gandhi. He adopted his principles of nonviolence to achieve civil equality, which he later passed on to other colleagues and students as the president of Morehouse. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the many that took heed to his teachings while he attended Morehouse. In February 2019, the faculty and staff visited the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays House Museum in Greenwood, South Carolina. They were given a private tour of his childhood home that was repaired and restored to reflect its original state. Later that day, the group also drove to Laurens, SC to visit the burial site of Dr. Wil Lou Gray.