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Hundreds attend Black History Month Symposium

Molly Hamilton Feb 11, 2015

DSC05640Over 400 people attended the Boys of Liberty Hill Symposium hosted at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum on Friday, February 6, 2015 as part of Black History Month.  The insightful panelists shared their experiences with the issues of desegregation and military service during the 1960s–a difficult time for the African-American community played out against the backdrop of the controversial Vietnam War.

A recording of the symposium can be viewed in our livestream archive at: http://new.livestream.com/patriotspointlive/libertyhill.

The symposium was based on the book, “Liberty Hill’s Fighting Vietnam Men,” written by Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby.  The book discusses the large percentage of men from the small, predominantly African-American community of Liberty Hill in North Charleston who chose to enlist in the military and serve their country during the Vietnam War.  During a time when the changes brought on by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were not universally accepted across the South, their service was particularly honorable. As Mr. Darby shared at the symposium, “These men went thousands of miles to fight for a country that wouldn’t seat them in the same school room (as white people) at home.”

More than 60 of the approximately 600 residents of Liberty Hill enlisted in the military and fought in the Vietnam War.  Of those men, eight men from Liberty Hill paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The symposium panel included Mr. Darby as well as Odell Price and Alfreda Levaine.  Mr. Price was one of the first five students to transfer from Bonds-Wilson High School to North Charleston High School after the passage of the Civil Rights Act required school desegregation.  Upon graduation in 1967, he enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17 and was sent to fight in the Vietnam War.  He was joined by Nathan White, Jr., who was killed in action at the age of 19.  Mrs. Levaine is the sister of Nathan White, Jr. and a graduate of Bonds-Wilson High School in 1963 (prior to desegregation).

The panel was moderated by local media personality, Warren Peper.  Mr. Peper lent his unique perspective as a graduate of North Charleston High School in 1970 who was friends with many residents of Liberty Hill despite their difference in race.

In addition to the panel discussion, Director of Education at Patriots Point Keith Grybowski provided a history of the civil rights struggles during the time period.  At the beginning of the symposium, well-known Charleston singer Ann Caldwell sang a moving version of the national anthem, accompanied on saxophone by Lonnie Hamilton III (who served for 20 years as an educator and band director at Bonds-Wilson High School).  Another highlight of the symposium was the reading of original poetry by two senior students at North Charleston High School.  Their works were well received by the standing-room-only audience.

To close the program, U.S. Senator Tim Scott joined the symposium through a recorded message and offered his appreciation to Mr. Price and Mrs. Levaine (and the family of Nathan White, Jr.).  He announced that he had officially offered remarks to the Congress honoring the boys of Liberty Hill and they are now part of the official Congressional Record.

Here are a few photos from the symposium:

Black History Education Symposium "The Boys of Liberty Hill"

Ann Caldwell sings the national anthem, accompanied by Lonnie Hamilton III on saxophone


 

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Mikayla Fuller, a senior at North Charleston High School, read a poem she wrote for the symposium


 

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Aleyia Murray, also a senior at North Charleston High School, shared her original poem honoring the boys of Liberty Hill


 

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Warren Peper (standing) moderated the panel discussion. Panelists were (L to R): Alfreda Levaine, Odell Price and Henry Darby.


 

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Black History Education Symposium "The Boys of Liberty Hill"

 

Black History Education Symposium "The Boys of Liberty Hill"

 

Black History Education Symposium "The Boys of Liberty Hill"

 

Black History Education Symposium "The Boys of Liberty Hill"

The Smokey Stover Theater was completely filled for the symposium. An additional audience watched by live feed in Hangar Bay III onboard the USS Yorktown. Additionally, the symposium was broadcast live on the internet.


 

Black History Education Symposium "The Boys of Liberty Hill"

United States Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) offered thanks to the brave men of Liberty Hill and their families who gave themselves in service to a country that didn’t fully accept them at home.


 

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