A plaque honoring 24 students from Burke High School who held a sit-in at King Street’s Kress lunch counter in 1960 in protest of segregation has finally been replaced.
Nearly two years after the original plaque, installed in 2013, was knocked down by a delivery truck, the The Preservation Society of Charleston reports that a new plaque is finally now in place.
Sitting left of the entrance to H&M, the clothing retailer that operates inside the building, the plaque is installed on the wall of the building’s facade.
“It’s an abbreviated text,” explains The Preservation Society’s Corie Hipp. The shortening of the language (which omits much of the architectural details in the original) is due to the fact that unlike the original two-sided plaque that stood on the sidewalk — and inevitably got knocked over — the new plaque is one-sided and affixed to the structure.
It now reads:
Civl Rights Sit-Ins
On April 1, 1960, the lunch counter at this 1931 Art Deco style building owned by S.H. Kress & Co. and those at the Woolworth’s and W.T. Grant’s stores on King Street were the targets of the city’s first civil rights “sit-in.” Black students from Burke High School were denied service but refused to leave. Arrested for trespassing, they were later convicted and fined. This youth-led protest was the beginning of a broader civil rights movement in Charleston.
As Tim Condo, Preservation Society Manager of Preservation Initiatives, explained in August, the installation delay was due to many reasons — determining how best to shorten the copy for exterior installation, working with Historic Charleston’s easement regulations, and getting approval from the building’s owner. But Hipp reports, the owner was great to work with and now the sign is back where it should be.
As Adam Parker wrote for Post & Courier in 2013, the Kress sit-in marked a sea change in the city, disrupting “a long history of denial and avoidance, of civility and patience and quiet reserve.”
“They were not served. They were told to leave. They did not leave. They hummed songs and recited the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm,” Parker wrote.
Now the courageous story of those 24 Burke students is rightfully on display once again. Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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