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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

John Bolt Culbertson: "The South's Bravest White Man"

South Carolina Political Collections Gallery, Hollings Library
Feb 1, 2012 - Aug 31, 2012

This exhibit highlights the life and career of civil rights and labor activist John Bolt Culbertson.  Culbertson (1908-1983) was a “liberal lion” of South Carolina’s Upstate for most of the 20th century, establishing a law practice in which he represented unions, the working class, disabled veterans, African-Americans, and others in need of a voice—many of whom could not afford to pay him.  His political leanings, atypical for South Carolina at that time, and his outspokenness resulted in financial setbacks, insults, and even crosses burned on his lawn, but Culbertson was largely undaunted. 

Culbertson was also an early member of the NAACP, and in the 1950s was on the road many weekends to speak before local branches of the group and to recruit new members.  This speaking tour drew the attention of Ebony magazine, which ran a feature in 1956 calling Culbertson “The South’s Bravest White Man.”  The exhibit features photographs and handbills from many of these appearances.  Other exhibited items include a scrapbook from Culbertson’s school days at USC, letters and photographs from Culbertson’s stint as an FBI Special Agent in the 1930s, campaign memorabilia from his runs for public office, and correspondence with prominent figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Judge J. Waties Waring, Thurgood Marshall, and Jesse Jackson.

The exhibit will be open for viewing during the Hollings Library's regular hours, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, through September 1.