They came to see living history, here in Cheraw.
A Summer Institute, offered by the University of South Carolina and taught by Dr. V. Littlefield, is studying the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural south to other regions of the country, where jobs were more plentiful for the black population. Their studies led them to discover, first hand, a glimpse into Cheraw’s personal history.
The tour included a visit to the African-American Museum, the Lyceum, actual slave cabins, the Pee Dee River and around town to take in the unique samples of architecture that remain in tact. Many of the students are teachers from around the state, but several students came from as far away as Pennsylvania to learn more about the rural south; where their own ancestors once lived.
“Several of them were so impressed by the charm of our small town, they said they are planning to come back to Cheraw with their families,” said Felicia Flemming McCall, owner and operator of the African-American Museum. Flemming worked with Littlefield to plan the day’s activities in town.
“We could have never had the kind of experience we did without Felicia’s help,” said Littlefield. “She introduced us to people who were able to give us accounts of living history. The trip to Cheraw reminded many of the teachers in the class about the power of oral interviews and how of our history can often be learned in our own back yard.”
Not only were the students impressed with the rich history of the area, said Littlefield, they were also impressed with the charm and hospitality of the people they met. “Several people within the group are planning to come back for the Jazz festival in the fall,” she said.
“The Great Migration, a long-term movement of African Americans from the South to the urban North, transformed Chicago and other northern cities between 1916 and 1970,” according to an article published on the web for Encyclopedia of Chicago. The article stated, “Chicago attracted slightly more than 500,000 of the approximately 7 million African Americans who left the South during these decades. Before this migration, African Americans constituted 2 percent of Chicago’s population; by 1970, they were 33 percent.”
The student’s talked at length about Levi Byrd’s role in establishing the South Carolina Chapter of the NAACP, as well as other Cheraw natives who were active during that era. There are several people in town who still remember Byrd.
African-American artist Jacob Lawrence is famous for a series of paintings titled “The Great Migration.” A website produced by the The Phillips Collection, a museum in Washington, D.C., said Lawrence created “extended narratives composed of multiple small paintings that were based on history or biography. By far the most famous of these is The Migration Series (1941), a sequence of 60 paintings depicting the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North between World War I and World War II — a development that had previously received little or no widespread attention.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.