Congratulations to the 2020 History Department Award Winners!

Today we would have held our annual History Dept Awards on campus, complete with student research presentations, the certificate ceremony, and a catered reception.While we cannot continue this tradition in person this year, we would still like to recognize the following history majors for their academic achievements this year:

  • Alexander C. Dick Pre-Law Scholarship: Anne Underwood
  • Douglas and Elizabeth Clark Memorial Scholarship: Lauren Middleton
  • Simonds Special Merit Award: Marian Williams
  • Society of First Families: James (Jamie) O’Brien
  • Winthrop Study Abroad: Asia Williams & McKenna Bessette
  • The William Moultrie Cup: Katie Soll
  • Outstanding History Student Service Award: Ciara Clemons
  • The Heltai Award: Abigail Calvert
  • HSS Scholars: Hillary Clark and Elizabeth Burgher

In addition, Morgan Eppley would have presented her individual research at the ceremony. Mentored by Dr. Shannon Eaves, Morgan investigated South Carolina’s Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and its influence on black political activism in South Carolina in her paper, “Making Room for the Right”: The Progressive Democratic Party and Black Political Activism in South Carolina. Morgan had this to say about her work:

“The PDP was the first deep south black political party and advocated for the abolition of Jim Crow laws that had left black South Carolinians outside of South Carolina’s political system. The PDP challenged the SC State Legislature’s opposition of the white-only primary and attempted to be seated at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. The combination of directly challenging these unjust practices and encouraging black voter registration enabled PDP members to form an effective voting bloc in South Carolina by the 1950s, leading black South Carolinians to play a significant role in the 1950 election of Olin D. Johnston to the US Senate. Despite their efforts, the PDP was unable to ensure lasting meaningful change and rather built a foundation for political activism, which was utilized by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to achieve the goal of political equality in 1964.

As I learned more about the PDP and the activism of its leader, John H. McCray, I became more interested in the story of the PDP, especially due to its parallelism with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. After consulting Dr. Eaves, we realized how interesting it was that black South Carolinians would organize under the Democratic Party umbrella, considering the famed opposition of southern Democratic politicians to Civil Rights legislation. She helped me contextualize my research into the political climate in the American South and helped me identify social abnormalities in the history to research more in-depth. One of our few assigned readings was I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, which helped me learn more about the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and how similar its mission was to the PDP, aiming to achieve what the PDP was unable to accomplish.

As both a history and political science major I’ve been very interested in learning about political histories and am passionate about learning more about issues pertaining to our democracy. I also felt that this project was particularly timely following the voter suppression that occurred in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election. This project enabled me to combine what I’ve learned in my history and political science classes through an interdisciplinary approach by applying a historic analysis, perspective, and context to the political climate and political activism in South Carolina during the mid-twentieth century. I utilized a variety of court cases and documents as well as utilized Addlestone’s Special Collections to find primary source material like articles written by PDP leader John H. McCray and Democratic Party meeting minutes.”

CONGRATULATIONS to these exceptional history majors!

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