Columbia, SC (WLTX) - College students from Columbia changed the course of history and their contributions to the civil rights movement will now be commemorated forever.
“I was abused but wasn't hurt you know, people called us names and spit on us,” Simon Bouie said.
He led a sit-in at Eckerd’s Drug Store in downtown Columbia. At the time, lunch counter was for whites only.
“We wanted to be a part of that movement to make things better for our people and for this country so we were committed to getting in on the action of being able to do what we could in this community to bring about change,” the advocate said.
He was a student at Allen University and led a protest of 500 Allen and Benedict students down Main Street.
“We entered Eckerd’s drug store, and upon entering to be served, we were denied and because we were denied, they called the police.”
He was arrested and jailed but his bravery ignited others.
“It gave inspiration to other schools. They got involved and Tennessee and other places, when they learned about what we were doing here,” he beamed.
His case Bouie v. Columbia went to the Supreme Court in 1964, he won.
He was not the only student from the Midlands who made a difference back in the 60s.
“There was a sit-in at the Taylor Street Pharmacy with five Benedict College students. Both of those arrests led to major supreme court cases that were rendered in the summer of 1964,” USC Professor and Columbia 63’s Bobby Donaldson explained. “The case at the Taylor Street Pharmacy was called Barr v. Columbia, and those students at the Taylor Street Pharmacy went in to be served. They were denied service because of their race when they refused to leave the premises. The police were called and they were arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace.”
Barr v. Columbia also went before the Supreme Court and they won too.
“Four years later, the United States Supreme Court rules that their arrest and their conviction was a violation of their Constitutional rights, that ruling of Barr v. Columbia and the ruling of Bouie v. Columbia, were important precedent cases that were then used in sit-in cases all across this country,” Donaldson said proudly.
Donaldson and his group helped get historical markers for Bouie and the other students involved in sit-ins.
“These markers were a long time coming. We knew about these civil rights protests but only very recently have we learned of the importance and consequence of these protests and so these markers serve as a lasting tribute to those young men and women who struggled over 50 years ago,” he said.
“My heart rejoices because I never thought this something of this nature would ever take place. I figured it would be soon forgotten and we who participated would not be remembered,” Bouie said. “It brings back all kinds of memories, of what we had to go through, the suffering we had to endure, the abuse we had to take, and the struggle for justice through the courts, it’s just an inspiration to me, to let me know that what we were doing was really the right thing and would make a difference in days to come.”
A small gesture in comparison to the big impact these students made decades ago.
“This helps as a marker to let us know where we’ve come from and where we need to go on this long journey of freedom,” Bouie said.