Civil rights elder preserves S.C. history

Kara Anderson profiles Cecil Williams, photographer who has documented the civil rights movement in South Carolina.

In elementary school, Cecil Williams photographed lawyer Thurgood Marshall’s early efforts to desegregate public schools. In high school, he documented the ‘60s civil rights sit-ins. As a young adult, he covered Harvey Gantt’s 1964 desegregation of Clemson University, the aftermath of the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre and the 1969 strike by Charleston hospital workers.

“The saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words. But no. I say a good picture, a storytelling picture is worth a thousand words,” said Cecil Williams, a 78-year-old civil rights photographer.

Williams’s body of work, spanning the last six decades, defines good documentary photography in South Carolina. Starting as a child in the ‘50s, the Orangeburg native covered most major civil rights events in the Palmetto State, from the 1954 Brigg v. Elliott case, which he claims started the national civil rights movement, to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop the South…

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