Oral Histories and Civil Rights Leaders

Folks interested in the civil rights movement in South Carolina should know of an Honors Thesis from 1990 available at the South Caroliniana Library.  Kristie Porter’s thesis is titled The Legal


Modjeska Simkins

Committee of the South Carolina NAACP and the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.  It includes a CD-R loaded with Kristie’s interviews with leading activists Fred James, Matthew Perry, and Modjeska Simkins.  The interviews, respectively 18, 66 and 74 minutes long, add to the excellent documentation of the civil rights movement here at USC’s special collections libraries.

SCPC is very proud to hold the papers of Mrs. Simkins as well as the papers of NAACP leader I. DeQuincey Newman.  The South Caroliniana Library’s important civil rights holdings include the papers of Arthur Clement, the Christian Action Council, John McCray, and the SC Council on Human Relations.  I processed the McCray and Council on Human Rights collections years ago, and they are fascinating records, providing great insights into what happened here in South Carolina and around the country.  Due to the great importance of and interest in our Newman and Simkins collections, we are digitizing them and will be making them universally available.


The Rev. I. DeQuincey Newman

We habitually ask our donors to suggest people whom we might approach for papers.  Both Fritz Hollings and John West independently and forcefully suggested we needed to collect the papers of the Reverend Newman.  I regret that I never met or saw the Rev. Newman, but I did see Mrs. Simkins on numerous occasions at various history-oriented events.  She always spoke powerfully and substantively.  And I did get to know Mrs. Newman and have enjoyed a number of fascinating conversations with their daughter Emily.

I also spoke with Judge Perry on several occasions, hoping to convince him that SCPC would provide the most suitable home for his papers.  Judge Perry could not have been kinder or more gracious, and I may have convinced Mrs. Perry, but I never was able to convince the Judge to declare us his repository.  But we do hold the exhaustive oral history interview conducted with Judge Perry by Columbia College historian Bob Moore.  Judge Perry and Moore donated the original recordings and our staff transcribed the interview, over 180 pages.  That transcript is availablefor all to read on our website.


Judge Matthew Perry

Thanks to SCL’s oral historian Andrea L’Hommedieu for bringing Kristie’s thesis to our attention and for her work reformatting the interviews from their original cassettes into mp3 files.  Since her arrival at the Caroliniana in June of 2011, Andrea has been a welcome and energetic presence, completing over 105 interviews, including thirty sessions with 94 year old Chuck Witten, a World War II navy veteran who served USC as Dean of Students during the civil rights and Vietnam War eras.

~ Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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