A three-year-old mascot; pardoned civil rights activist; author; educator; devoted husband and father. These are the roles that have indelibly shaped the legacy of Cleveland L. Sellers Jr., PhD, the eighth president of Voorhees College.
He grew up in Denmark – in the shadows of Voorhees – and became active in the 1960’s civil rights movement as an advocate for voting rights, justice and human rights. He aligned himself with veterans of the movement such as Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Esau Jenkins, Modjeska Simpkins and Septima Clark. He was a victim of the Orangeburg Massacre that resulted in only one arrest – his. He used the detention to rededicate his life to empowering others through education – his life’s calling.
Under Dr. Sellers’ leadership, the South Carolina State Commission on Higher Education has recognized Voorhees College as the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to receive the 2008-2009 Service Learning Award for exemplary academic service learning programs of public and private higher education institutions. The college also made history as one of only two HBCU’s to be featured in the first Inauguration Debate Series held at the National Museum of Natural history in Washington, D.C.
Previously, Dr. Sellers served as director of the African American Studies program at the University of South Carolina. An alumnus of Shaw University, Harvard University, and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, his affiliations include the Kosmos Club, South Carolina State Board of Education, South Carolina African American Heritage Committee, the Organization of American Historians, and Southern Historical Association. Among his numerous awards are the 2009 “Preserving Our Places in History” Lifetime Achievement Award, South Carolina African American Heritage Commission; 2009 Freedom Flame Award, National Voting Rights Museum and Institute; 2009 Legacy Award, United Negro College Fund; and the 2007 Eagle Scout Award, Boy Scouts of America.
Dr. Sellers and his wife of 38 years, Gwendolyn, are the parents of three children, Dr. Nosizwe A. Sellers, Rev. Cleveland L. Sellers III, and S.C. Representative, Bakari Sellers.