Lesson Plan: Overview

Separate But Equal?: A lesson on the Briggs v. Elliott Case in Clarendon County, South Carolina

Grade Level: 3rd

Liberty Hill

Academic Standards

Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Indicator 3-5.6 Summarize the key events and effects of the civil rights movement in South Carolina, including the desegregation of schools (Briggs v. Elliott) and other public facilities and the acceptable of African Americans' right to vote.
Social Studies Literacy Elements

A. Distinguish between past, present, and the future time

E. Explain change and continuity over time
G. Make and record observations about the physical and human characteristics of places
H. Construct maps, graphs, tables, and diagrams to display social studies information
K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships
L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts
O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories.
P. Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps.
Essential Question
How was education different for southern whites and blacks during the Jim Crow era?

Historical Background Notes

The Briggs vs. Elliott case began in Clarendon County, South Carolina in 1947. Most people are familiar with The Brown vs. The Board of Education as the most important case to end segregation in school.  The Brown case of Topeka, Kansas was a combination of four other cases filed in Supreme Court to end segregation. The four other cases were from Prince Edward County (Virginia), Wilmington (Delaware), the District of Columbia (Washington) and Clarendon County, South Carolina. One historian believes the title case should have been Briggs vs. Elliott because this is the case that began it all. (Egerton 1994, 589) Egerton also feels this way because South Carolina more strongly represents the south and the extreme of segregation during this time.

Clarendon County at the time was a small rural county with a population of 32,000 in 1950. Three-fourths of the population was black. White students made up only thirteen percent of the public school population but two-thirds of the funding went to white schools. (Egerton 1994, 590) The white school facilities such as Summerton Graded and Summerton High School were solid structures filled with superior materials compared to the ramshackle buildings used as schools for the black children. The black classes were overcrowded and the materials such as books were in very poor condition. The county also provided busses for the white students at this time while the black students were forced to walk for miles to get to school.

The catalyst behind the Briggs vs. Elliott case is Reverend Joseph Albert Delaine. He was an African Methodist Episcopal minister and schoolteacher at the time in Clarendon County. After hearing Reverend James Hinton, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, speak of the inequalities of black people in education during a conference at Allen University, Rev. Delaine felt moved to do something. His first attempts to approach the Clarendon County School District and the state superintendent of education about providing bus transportation for black students were ignored.

Rev. Delaine then paired up with an old friend Levi Pearson. They submitted a case to the school board to provide transportation for his three children. The County Board of Education dismissed the case because his farm straddled the line between two districts, which allowed the court to rule that Pearson had no legal standing. (Hornsby 1992, 4)

Rev. Delaine met with Modjeska Simpkins, state and national members of the NAACP in March 1949. They put together a petition that not only requested busses for the students in Clarendon County but also requested an overall equal education for black students and an end to segregation in schools. Harry Briggs was the first name signed on the petition. He worked as a gas station attendant and had children enrolled in school in Clarendon County. Elliott was the chairman of the Clarendon County School Board at the time, which is why the case became known as Briggs vs. Elliott. Attorneys for the case were Harold Boulware, Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter. Over one hundred people signed the petition. (Hornsy 1994, 6)

The Petition of Harry vs. Briggs stated that the public schools attended by Negro children of School District #22 in Clarendon County, South Carolina were unhealthy, overcrowded, and in dilapidated condition. (Petition of Harry Briggs, 1949) The Negro schools also had an insufficient number of teachers and no adequate library. The petition also discussed the lack of maintenance for the Negro schools when compared to the white schools. Some other complaints in the petition were no school busses provided for Negro children and the fact that students are forced to attend certain schools based solely on race.

Seven years later on May 17, 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” schools to be unconstitutional which put an end to segregation in schools. The Briggs vs. Elliott case by now had been consolidated with The Brown vs. The Board of Education.

The end of segregated schools came with sacrifices. Rev. Delaine who lost his job as a teacher. Harry Briggs lost his job as a gas station attendant. There were many more sacrifices such as that of Judge Waites Waring, the Charleston judge who supported Briggs vs. Elliott case. Although many of the people who signed the petition did not get to see true change in school integration, they made a sacrifice for others.

  Primary Sources

“22 Summerton Graded” #00476 and “22 Liberty Hill Colored” #00477. State Budget and Control Board, Sinking Fund Commission. Insurance File Photographs, 1948-1951. S 112113. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.


Petition of Harry Briggs, et al., to the Board of Trustees for School District No. 22. 11 November 1949. Clarendon County Board of Education, L14167. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

  Secondary Sources

American History: Racial Inequality: Remnants of a Troubled Time.” Available from ETV Streamline. Internet, Discovery Channel School. Accessed 2005. SCETV.

ETV Streamline is available for free to all South Carolina public, private, and home schools. However, registration and login is required to access content.


Egerton, John. Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. New York: Knopf, 1994.


Hornsby, Benjamin F. Stepping Stone to the Supreme Court: Clarendon County. Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History,1992.

  Morrison, Toni. Remember: The Journey to School Integration. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
  Materials Needed
  Remember: The Journey to School Integrations
  Briggs v. Elliott Petition
  Pictures of Facilities
  Avery Key
  Venn Diagrams

Lesson Plans

1. Introduce school integration by reading aloud Remember: The Journey to School Integration. Students will observe and discuss how school facilities look and people's feelings.
2. Students will view United Streaming video to build background for Elliott v. Briggs case. They will discuss the video in groups.
3. Students will read and discuss the petition
4. Students will compare pictures of Liberty Hill Colored School and Summerton Graded School of Clarendon County, South Carolina.
5. Students will record their findings on a Venn Diagram.
6. Students will create a computer generated Venn Diagram using www.ReadWriteThink.org

Teacher Reflections

The Teaching American History in South Carolina Institute is a great way to experience history. As a second time around participant I am so greatful for the historical knowledge and experiences. The primary sources that can be used to teach history are so plentiful. The Summer Institute makes it easy for them to be accessible and used in the classroom. This is great because teacher-planning time is limited during the school year. Having the primary sources available on compact disc is a gift of convenience.

Student Assessments

Teacher used attached rubric.


Valentina Cochran
Pine Grove Elementary