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Downtown historic markers will commemorate landmark cases

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Historic markers commemorating two landmark civil rights cases will be unveiled in downtown Columbia on Thursday.

The first marker, commemorating Barr v. City of Columbia, will be dedicated at 1520 Taylor St. (currently Hawthorne Pharmacy) at 3 p.m. The second, commemorating Bouie v. City of Columbia, will be dedicated at 1530 Main St. (across from the Columbia Museum of Art) at 3:30 p.m.

Both 1964 cases involved sit-ins led by African-American students at downtown lunch counters in the city.

On March 14, 1960, Simon Bouie, a student at Allen University, and Benedict College student Talmadge Neal led a protest march to the Eckerd’s luncheonette. The students were jailed and convicted for refusing to leave their seats after they were denied service because they were black. Bouie v. City of Columbia overturned those convictions, holding that the due process rights guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment had been violated.

On March 15, 1960, five Benedict College students – Charles Barr, David Cater, Richard Counts, Milton Greene and Johnny Clark – refused to leave the lunch counter at the Taylor Street Pharmacy and were arrested. Barr v. City of Columbia overturned those convictions as well.

Both cases are now taught in law schools across the nation.

Representatives from the University of South Carolina Center for Civil Rights History and Research and Columbia SC 63, an initiative dedicated to commemorating Columbia’s civil rights history, will attend the ceremonies, as well as officials from Allen, Benedict and Historic Columbia. 

USC history professor Bobby Donaldson, director of the USC center and Columbia SC 63, led a team of students who researched the markers’ content. 

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