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Boeing donates $1.5M to USC for Center for Civil Rights research and programming – Charleston Post Courier

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Updated: October 22, 2022 @ 9:53 pm
Boeing Co. donated $1.5 million Oct. 20, 2022, to the Center for Civil Rights History and Research on the University of South Carolina campus. The center is housed in the auditorium of the former Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia. Jessica Holdman/Staff

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Boeing Co. donated $1.5 million Oct. 20, 2022, to the Center for Civil Rights History and Research on the University of South Carolina campus. The center is housed in the auditorium of the former Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia. Jessica Holdman/Staff
COLUMBIA — The Boeing Co. is donating $1.5 million to support research conducted by the University of South Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research.
The fund, named in honor of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and his late wife Emily, will support the work of the center’s executive director and historian, Bobby Donaldson, making his position an endowed chair at the university.
“At Boeing, we have a profound respect for Congressman James Clyburn and Emily Clyburn’s civil rights activism and leadership,” said a statement from Ziad Ojakli, executive vice president of Government Operations at Boeing.
Boeing has a manufacturing campus in North Charleston where it builds Dreamliner aircraft.
The Center for Civil Rights was founded at the state’s largest university in 2015 with the goal of recording the contributions of South Carolinians upon the larger, national civil rights movement. The auditorium of the former Booker T. Washington High School, which educated Black students in Columbia from 1916 until 1974, houses the center.
“This investment enables us to take the center to higher heights as we advance our teaching, research and outreach mission,” Donaldson said.
In accepting his appointment to the chair, Donaldson talked about his earlier years as a USC professor living in an apartment at Preston Residential College — a Black man living in a building named after a former leader of the university who was a supporter of slavery.
In that building, he conducted interviews of Black community leaders around Columbia, including Betty Corbin, who had lived in the predominantly Black Ward One neighborhood and watched her community be bulldozed to make way for the university’s expansion. As she was leaving, she made her way to a row of rocking chairs on the porch and sat down. She told Donaldson how she had passed by those chairs each day on her walk to school, careful not to take a shortcut through campus, where she was not allowed because of her race. She had long wondered what it would be like to lounge in one of those chairs the way she saw USC students doing so many years before.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Now I know,’ ” Donaldson said. “That is why this gift, that is why this chair, that is why the work of the Civil Rights Center is so important. Our job is not only to uncover and to document the tremendous history that you see in this building. But it’s also to do exactly what happened that afternoon on the porch.”
The telling of Black South Carolinians’ stories also is why Clyburn has supported the center.
“All of these people, the contributions they made, it was just not talked about and I just thought something needed to be done about that,” Clyburn said.
The same year the center was formed, Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, donated his congressional papers to the institution. Clyburn attended law school at USC and his wife earned her master’s degree from the college.
“I am truly humbled by Boeing’s gift in honor of the contributions Emily and I have made to civic engagement,” Clyburn said in a statement. “This center serves as the premier repository of our civil rights history in South Carolina and will be a significant conduit by which future generations will learn lessons that hopefully help ensure we don’t repeat our past mistakes.”
The gift by the airplane maker joins another $1.5 million donation made to the center earlier in 2022 by Williams Co., an Oklahoma-based national gas firm with pipeline operations in South Carolina.
This is not Boeing’s first donation to the state’s flagship university.
In 2021, Boeing provided a $225,000 grant to support the university’s Veterans Legal Clinic and to expand the clinic’s free services to low-income veterans living in South Carolina. It then gave $125,000 more to the clinic in 2022.
“Boeing has been a valued and committed partner of our university for more than a decade, supporting academic programs, research innovation and community service,” University President Michael Amiridis said.
It also marks a series of donations by Boeing to nonprofits with missions related to equity and social justice.
In 2020, the company gave $1.5 million to Allen University, a historically black university in Columbia, to help forward plans for a civil debate institute and memorial to the nine victims gunned down following a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015 by an avowed white supremacist.
Boeing is also giving $2 million to the International African American Museum being built in downtown Charleston.
The company has committed to $10.6 million in total donations nationwide.
Reach Jessica Holdman at jholdman@postandcourier.com. Follow her @jmholdman on Twitter.
Jessica Holdman is a business reporter for The Post & Courier covering Columbia. Prior to moving to South Carolina, she reported on business in North Dakota for The Bismarck Tribune and has previously written for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.
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