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Sculpture Commemorates D7's Commitment to Racial Unity

 

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New sculpture commemorates Spartanburg High's integration, dedication to racial unity

By Samantha Swann, Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Photo credits: Tim Kimzey, Alex Hicks, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

A new sculpture on the campus of Spartanburg High School aims to spark a conversation about racial equity and unity during the 50th anniversary of the high school's integration.

The statue was one of the final projects by Russell Booker, the former superintendent of Spartanburg District 7 who has become the new executive director of the Spartanburg Academic Movement.

Booker was initially inspired by a sculpture in downtown Greenville honoring Sterling High School. The statue by Maria Kirby-Smith celebrates Sterling High School, the first public African American high school in Greenville County that remained open until 1970 when the school integrated with Greenville High School. 

Booker wanted the statue at Spartanburg High School to help celebrate the memory of Carver High School, the former high school for Black students. He contacted Kirby-Smith to create a statue dedicated to the integration of Carver and Spartanburg high schools.

"It dawned on me, as I was looking at those statues, that when I think about our community, it was rare that I would ever see any statues of African Americans," Booker said. "So I started dreaming, wouldn't it be nice to do something similar to capture Carver's history,"

The work depicts four students, cast in bronze, sitting in a circle of four benches outside the Spartanburg School District 7 Fine Arts Center at the high school.

Spartanburg District 7 commissioned and installed a new sculpture to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the integration of Spartanburg High School. The sculpture stands in front of the District 7 Fine Arts Center, on the high school campus in Spartanburg, Friday, August 21, 2020. 

The figures bring together four distinct points in the school's history. One figure, a white boy, represents the opening of Evans High School in the early 1920s, which was renamed Spartanburg High School in the 1930s. A Black boy from the 1930s represents the opening of Carver High School. A Black girl in a demure dress represents Wynona Douglas, the first African American student to attend Spartanburg High School in 1964. The fourth statue is of a white girl in a 1970s button-up mini skirt and knee-high boots representing the four Spartanburg High students who earned yearbook superlatives for their efforts to bring about racial reconciliation after the students at Carver moved to Spartanburg High in 1970.

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Though the figures represent different periods of time, they appear to be in conversation with each other.

Spartanburg District 7 commissioned and installed a new sculpture to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the integration of Spartanburg High School. The sculpture stands in front of the District 7 Fine Arts Center, on the high school campus in Spartanburg, Friday, August 21, 2020.

The sculpture is highly detailed and contains a number of discreet clues related to the periods the figures are depicting.

"The yearbook mirrors the Saga yearbook from the size of it to the cover, that mirrors The Scribbler. On the back of (the boys') sweaters, you'll find the mascots," Booker said.

Additional details include the copy of "Why We Can't Wait" by Martin Luther King, Jr. under one student's hand and a small flower in the hand of another.

 

 

 New sculpture commemorates Spartanburg High's integration, dedication to racial unity

Superintendent of Spartanburg School District Seven Jeff Stevens, Spartanburg High School Principal Vance Jones, and Executive Director elect of the Spartanburg Academic Movement Dr. Russell W. Booker, stand with sculptures to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school's integration.