African American History Calendar and Honorees Unveiled

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Columbia, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Education and statewide partners unveiled the 2021 South Carolina African American History Calendar.

Now in its thirty second year, the twelve month calendar was first created to help bolster the state’s K-12 African American history curriculum. Each year the calendar profiles individuals who have had positive, compelling impacts on South Carolina and, often, our entire nation.

“This year’s calendar honorees’ have demonstrated lifelong commitments to improving the lives of their fellow Americans and South Carolinians” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “With each page, you will be reminded of the tremendous legacies they have left to inspire future generations.”

The 2021 African American History Calendar features the Jenkins Institute, located in Charleston, on its cover. The Jenkins Institute, founded in 1891, was formerly known as the “Jenkins Orphanage.” What started as a simple act of kindness from a husband and wife taking in four orphans would eventually turn into a musical empire that has inspired some of the country’s most famous African American talents.

This year’s calendar highlights 10 extraordinary individuals and two families who have enriched South Carolina’s history and been ambassadors for the state. The honorees featured in the 2021 calendar are: 

  • Allie Brooks, a native of Florence, South Carolina, served more than 35 years as a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools in the Pee Dee.
  • Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a native of Gifford, Florida, became the first African American woman in Orangeburg County elected to be a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
  • Bernard and Herbert Fielding, natives of Charleston, South Carolina, were active members of the NAACP. Bernard served as Charleston County’s first African American Probate Judge. Herbert became one of the first African American legislators to the South Carolina House of Representatives since Reconstruction.
  • Rosa Franklin, a native of Cordesville, South Carolina, was the first African American woman to serve in the Washington State Senate.
  • Sherman James, a native of Hartsville, South Carolina, was the first African American to be elected president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, the largest professional society of epidemiologists in North America.
  • Willis and Clara Langley, natives of Washington, North Carolina, were the first African American couple to purchase a McDonald’s restaurant in the city of Columbia. 
  • L. Casey Manning, Sr., a native of Dillon, South Carolina, was the first African American scholarship recipient to play basketball at the University of South Carolina.
  • Amy Surginer Northrop, a native of Dixiana, South Carolina, was appointed as the first African American state inspector of beauty shops in South Carolina.
  • Gloria Blackwell Rackley, a native of Little Rock, South Carolina, was an educator and influential member of the NAACP and Civil Rights Movement in Orangeburg. Rackley won several significant civil rights lawsuits.
  • Nathan Spells, Sr., a native of Bowman, South Carolina, is the CEO and founder of Construction Dynamics, Inc., one of the Southeast’s leading minority-owned and operated General Contracting and Construction Management firms.
  • A.J. Whittenberg, a native of Fork Shoals, South Carolina, served as president of the Greenville NAACP and was instrumental in the desegregation of schools in Greenville. An elementary school was named in his honor in 2001.
  • Dorris Wright, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, played an integral role in the Upstate’s Civil Rights Movement, and led Greenville’s first sit-ins at lunch counters.

Calendars are printed and distributed free of charge to schools, faith based organizations, community centers, and the general public to shine a light on South Carolina’s rich African American history. The biographies and timeline of important dates printed in the calendar are also preserved online and thanks to accompanying lesson plans, are used by educators from across the state in classroom instruction. Over the past three decades, the project has developed into a virtual hall of fame and attracts attention from around the nation.

In addition to the South Carolina Department of Education, the sponsors who make the calendar possible include AT&T, Dominion Energy, South Carolina ETV, the University of South Carolina, and WIS-TV.

The 2021 calendar is free and available for pre-order now at Requests made will be fulfilled in mid-November.

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