Chapter

“You're just like mules, you don't know your own strength”: Rural South Carolina Blacks and the Emergence of the Civil Rights Struggle

Carmen V. Harris

in Beyond Forty Acres and a Mule

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780813039862
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813043777 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813039862.003.0012
“You're just like mules, you don't know your own strength”: Rural South Carolina Blacks and the Emergence of the Civil Rights Struggle

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Rural African Americans may be perceived as being hesitant to challenge the racial status quo. Yet in South Carolina, rural resistance culminated in the Briggs v. Elliott case, one of the five cases consolidated into the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954. Carmen V. Harris focuses on the rural dimension of Briggs v. Elliott and its significance to the civil rights movement in this essay. Many of the plaintiffs were farmers, most of them independent landowners. They pursued equal opportunity even as whites who dominated the predominantly black county disrupted and, in some cases, destroyed the black farm families' agricultural livelihoods. In the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the rural resistance spread. African American farmers in the Ellenton community in Orangeburg County sought equal opportunities that the Supreme Court's rulings in Brown I and Brown II affirmed and remained resolute in their goals despite white reprisal. A decade later Afro-South Carolinian farmers in other communities confronted racial inequalities as the state's agricultural extension service integrated. They asserted their right to determine agricultural progress in their own communities.

Keywords: South Carolina; Briggs v. Elliott; Brown v. Board; equal opportunity; rural resistance; civil rights; independent landowners; reprisal

Chapter.  7353 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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