Equalization Schools in South Carolina 1951-1959 by Rebekah Dobrasko February 2008
I. Historical Overview of Equalization Program
In 1951, South Carolina passed its first general sales tax in order to fund a statewide program of school construction. Newly-elected governor James Byrnes developed a school construction and improvement package in response to Briggs v. Elliott, a lawsuit based in Clarendon County challenging the state’s constitutional “separate but equal” education provision. This “equalization” program was intended to construct new African American elementary and high schools across South Carolina to circumvent a potential desegregation ruling by the Supreme Court. The multi-million dollar school building campaign utilized modern school design, materials, and architecture to build new rural, urban, black, and white schools in communities throughout the state.1
The schools constructed as part of South Carolina’s school equalization program represent the intersection of modern, national architectural trends and the postwar baby boom with South Carolina’s fight to maintain racially-segregated public schools. The state’s modern schools were funded by a three-cent sales tax designed to equalize black and white public schools. Nationally-recognized educational consultants worked with local and county school architects to design these new “equalization” schools based on postwar thinking about educational processes and architecture. The new design trends were applied to both black and white schools, resulting in materially equal school plants.
Rebekah Dobrasko spent 10 years researching and surveying equalization schools in South Carolina. Although I am now in Texas, I am committed to maintaining this website and my interest in equalization schools. This research began as part of my Public History masters' program at the University of South Carolina. Researching these schools led to a comprehensive survey of Charleston County's equalization schools, a thesis, and ultimately a Multiple Property Submission on the schools for the National Register of Historic Places. My time in South Carolina led to great opportunities for me to increase awareness of these schools and their history on a statewide scale. Now, these schools are being listed in the National Register of Historic Places, recognized with historical markers, and visited by history tours.