This March marks the 60th anniversary of one of Florence’s most important civil rights events.
Florence County Museum is hosting an unveiling ceremony and reception for a historical marker commemorating sit-in demonstrations at the Kress department store lunch counter in March of 1960.
The marker will be unveiled in a ceremony from 3 to 4 o’clock on the afternoon, Thursday, March 5, 2020. The ceremony will take place in front of the Kress building on the north side of the 100 block of West Evans St. in downtown Florence.
Speakers representing the protesters, Florence County, and the City of Florence will address the crowd, discussing the social, historical, and personal significance of the protests.
Museum curator, Stephen W. Motte, first became interested in the Kress protests after hearing about them from a museum patron in 2013.
“During that time we were still preparing interpretation for the historical gallery in our new facility. The Civil Rights movement was an important social benchmark in our national history and I wanted a way to address its local impact,” Motte said.
It was then that Motte met Mr. John Miller who, as a high school student and vice president of the youth chapter of Florence’s NAACP, helped to organize the protests in 1960. Since then Miller has been working with museum staff in making contacts, information gathering, and conducting interviews with other protestors.
A historical marker was first proposed in 2015, around the time of the 55th anniversary of the event. In 2017 Florence County Council and the Florence County Historical Society voted to sponsor the marker project.
Forty-eight protesters were arrested during the demonstrations, all charged with parading without obtaining a city permit.
Their cases were adopted by an attorney for the NAACP and were eventually appealed before the South Carolina Supreme Court, who overturned the protestors’ convictions.
For Miller and others, participation in the protests have cast a 60 years-long shadow. In spite of the charges being dismissed in the appeals trial, the arrests are still attached to many of the participants’ permanent records, obstructing employment opportunities, forestalling benefits, and preventing some from entering military service.
In addition to the state historical marker obtained by Florence County, the City of Florence is planning to place another marker at the site which will contain a list of names of the protestors arrested in 1960.
Speakers at the unveiling event will include Mr. John W. Miller, Representative Terry Alexander (D – Florence), Florence County Solicitor Ed Clements III, and Mayor Stephen Wukela.
A reception will be held at the FCM Waters Gallery, 135 S. Dargan St., immediately following the unveiling.
For more information, please contact the Florence County Museum at 843.676.1200.