This episode of SCETV’s For the People program, part of the South Carolina Arts Commission collection, aired on January 23, 1976. It covers the January 15 demonstrations in Columbia, SC, pressing for the creation of a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. The episode includes interviews with several demonstrators and speeches given outside the South Carolina State House by Rev. Matthew McCollom, Redfern II, Willie Williams, and Isaac Williams.
It took over a decade for the people who advocated for a day of recognition to achieve their goal. In 1983, President Reagan signed a bill making Dr. King’s birthday into a federal holiday, with the first observation of the new holiday in 1986.
MIRC’s Local Television News collections contain two clips of Dr. King himself speaking in South Carolina. In 1966, Dr. King gave a speech in Kingstree on the importance of voting, telling his audience to “march on ballot boxes.” NPR’s History Department blog examines these outtakes in greater detail. The Reverend visited Charleston in 1967, where he emphasized his commitment to non-violence. “I decided to stick with love,” Dr. King proclaims. Future Congressman James Clyburn is visible onstage behind the podium.