First black superintendent in SC speaks on Briggs vs. Elliott case
By Billie Jean Shaw, Assignment Editor/Digital Journalist - email
Saturday, May 17th , marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, one of the most pivotal cases in American history.
Six decades ago, nearly 200 plaintiffs from (Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and South Carolina) across the country joined in a unanimous decision to challenge the doctrine of "separate but equal," in the school systems. People from across the country were wanting to put an end to segregation in schools, and took their concerns to the highest court in the land, which created five different cases:
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas) Belton v. Gebhart (Delaware) Bolling v. Sharpe (District of Columbia) Davis v. County School Board (Virginia) Briggs v. Elliott (South Carolina)
In December of 1952, the Court consolidated all five cases under the name of Brown v. Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund handled these cases. Briggs V. Elliott The Briggs case was named after Harry Briggs, one of the twenty parents who filed a suit against R.W. Elliott, the president of school board for Clarendon County, South Carolina.
Initially the parents asked for a school bus for the black schools since the white schools had one. However, the bus battle became an all-out attack on segregation in South Carolina schools. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina schools had to be integrated. It took Summerton 16 more years to comply with that ruling. HIStory Broadus Butler is living history of the Brown v. Board of Education.
When he came to Summerton, South Carolina he had one goal, and that was to better the school system, so he applied to be the superintendent.
In 1971, Butler made history by becoming the first black superintendent in South Carolina after the Brown v. Board of Education. He can recall the story as if it happened yesterday.
Butler says he almost did not get the job due to his involvement with the NAACP, he was asked to fill out another application, omitting his involvement with the NAACP. "The NAACP and the community board members came here in that room, living room one Saturday morning,and it was announced I'll be the next superintendent," Butler says as he holds his hand to his head.
Butler says the job was not easy, and he received direct and indirect threats.
"I was told, this was through the grapevine, that all those white businesses uptown had their guns ready," Butler says. "And if I had made the first [wrong] movement amongst those white employees, they were gonna come shooting, theu were coming for me."
Butler was superintendent for seven years. He wants today's kids to know that "a lot of people have put fourth a great effort to improve the school systems in the county and throughout these United States."
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