Heyward recounts race relations of the 50s, 60s in Florence
Dr. Joe Heyward remembers all too well the poor race relations and the fight for equality in Florence during the 1950s and 1960s.
Heyward, a former vice president of student affairs at Francis Marion University, recounted some of those memories, including the sit-in at Kress Department Store, during his presentation Friday as part of FMU’s “Cultural Conversations” series at the Performing Arts Center. The presentation was titled “Changes in African American Race Relations in Florence Over Time and How to Create an Inclusive Environment for People of Color.”
Also taking part in the program were FMU assistant psychology professors Drs. Erica James and Antonio Cooper.
“I grew up not much more than eight blocks from this building,” Heyward pointed out. “I remember in 1952 Florence hired its first black police officer. The black officer did not have a vehicle. He had to walk wherever he went. If he needed to make an arrest he had to call a white police officer for assistance first.”
Heyward said it was admittedly not an ideal situation, but it was “a step in the right direction.”
He said in 1953 the city hired its first black firefighter, another big step for the African American community in Florence.
Heyward went on to detail the Kress Department Store sit-in of 1960 that garnered national attention. Earlier this year the city unveiled a historical marker on West Evans Street at the site of the sit-in. He pointed out that after the sit-in the store chose to close its lunch counter rather than serve blacks. The lunch counter reopened in the mid 1970s.
He also shared some memories of school integration in Florence in 1966.
“The first students integrated into whites schools in Florence had to endure some terrible, terrible treatment,” he said.
The “Cultural Conversations” series is presented jointly by the Francis Marion University and the FMU African American Faculty Staff Coalition. Each event will incorporate a presentation followed by a question and answer session.
The next installment of the series will be Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, and will feature Jamee Hunt Freeman, former FMU director of admissions, and Dr. Erica James. They will offer a presentation titled “Native American Racial Injustices, Issues and SES Disparities.”
To register,visit www. fmarion.edu/aafsc/.
The presentations can be accessed online by video livestream. Recordings may be watched after the events have concluded.