On the second day of the Peoples Tour for America, the Rick Smith Show traveled through the northern half of South Carolina and made our way to Charleston. While we were able to visit the Modjeska Simkins house in Columbia, the travels came with mixed emotions.
Our first stop of the day came in the historical Rock Hill, South Carolina shopping district where the Friendship Nine conducted a sit-in at the old McCrory’s Lunch Counter. Though the original McCrory’s is long gone, the local establishment has changed ownership, but according to local reports the original lunch counter is still in the diner. The current owner saved the building from destruction when she bought it a few years back.
After that, we rolled through Columbia to visit the famous Modjeska Simkins House. Modjeska was considered the Mother of the South Carolina Civil Rights Movement and she was supposedly proud of the fact that she was kicked out of every organization she ever belonged to. At the house, we interviewed local historian and former State Representative James Felder and the Executive Director of the South Carolina Progressive Network Brett Bursey. Mr. Felder was one of the first African Americans to ever hold a state office since the Reconstruction Era and Mr. Bursey has been invovled in the movement since the 1960’s. His claim to fame was burning a Confederate Flag in 1969 and then getting arrested for protesting a free speech zone when George Bush was visiting the state in 2007.
There was some downside to yesterday’s travels. While travelling to Orangeburg, you can see how poverty has taken its grip on the local communities. Streets were littered with one stop check cashing and liquor stores. Orangeburg had its own bit of history in 1968 when the local highway patrol massacred 8 students from the local black university who were trying to integrate the All Star Bowling Alley. The bowling lane was currently abandoned in a vacant strip mall. The only real land mark left commemorating the site was the rusted sign advertising the bowling alley.
Today, we will be in Charleston and tomorrow we are heading to Savannah to meet with local truck port drivers who have been striking for better wages and working conditions over the past two years. Stay tuned.