While the South Carolina State House removed its Confederate flag, it has been slower to reckon with the legacy of segregation. Two statues on its grounds commemorate fervent segregationists. One honors former South Carolina governor and senator Benjamin Tillman. Tillman has become a deeply controversial figure for the fervor with which he supported segregation, encouraging violence against African Americans to dissuade them from exercising their right to vote.
While in recent years Tillman’s statue has become a source of controversy, another statue to a segregationist has received very little attention.
Strom Thurmond had a long career in public service, but it was a career in service of only white South Carolinians, at the expense of African Americans. When the 1948 Democratic national convention added black civil rights to the Democratic Party platform, he stormed out with other Southern segregationists, forming the States’ Rights Democratic Party — also known as the Dixiecrats — and then running as its presidential nominee. Indeed, Thurmond so fervently opposed civil rights legislation in the name of states’ rights that he switched parties after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.