May Timeline


Charleston authorities uncovered the plan for the largest African American slave insurrection in the nation’s history. Denmark Vesey, a free man, was named as the lead organizer of the planned rebellion. The plot was in response to the city’s suppression of the African church in Charleston.


Enslaved ship pilot Robert Smalls liberates 16 slaves, including members of his family, by piloting the Confederate ship, The Planter, through enemy territory in the Charleston harbor toward Union military forces. As an acclaimed hero, Smalls pursued political office on the state and national level.


Dr. Matilda Evans was born in Aiken, S.C. As one of the first licensed African American female physicians in the state, Dr. Evans established a highly successful practice, community clinics, and a nurses training program in Columbia, S.C.


Educator and organizer, Septima Poinsette Clark, commonly referred to as the “Mother of the Movement” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, was born in Charleston, S.C.


A deadly race riot in Charleston led to the death of two African Americans. During the course of the following months of the “red summer,” racial violence erupted across the U.S.


ames Brown, “The Godfather of Soul” was born in Barnwell, S.C.


Led by Lighthouse and Informer newspaper editor John McCray, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) held its first convention in Columbia, S.C.


The US Supreme Court ruled school segregation as unconstitutional in the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education. The first of the five cases that made up the Brown suit was Briggs v. Elliott from Clarendon County, S.C.


Twenty-one African American teachers in Elloree, S.C. were dismissed from their jobs after they refused to acknowledge their memberships in the NAACP.


Twenty-one-year-old John Lewis was beaten while participating in the Freedom Rides at the Rock Hill Greyhound Bus Station. Other riders were assaulted in Winnsboro. Lewis later is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia.

When the Freedom Rides reached Sumter, Jerry Moore, Herman Harris, and Mae Francis Moultrie, students from Morris College, were recruited by CORE to join the Movement.


Over 1,000 white University of South Carolina students participated in an anti-integration rally on the campus’ Horseshoe green. After a cross was lit on the campus, some of the students then marched to the State House to oppose the admission of African American students.


Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to over 5000 people gathered in Kingstree. As African Americans in Kingstree and around the state ran for political office, King championed voter registrations and encouraged his audience to “march on ballot boxes” in upcoming primaries.


S.C. Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday an official state holiday. S.C. was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for state employees.