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Eliza Briggs, a leader in the history-making fight to desegregate schools in South Carolina, died Sept. 15. She was 81.

Mrs. Briggs, of Summerton, S.C., and her husband, Harry Briggs, were the lead plaintiffs in the 1949 lawsuit that challenged the fairness of Clarendon County's segregated school system. The case was among those that were eventually decided as part of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the 1954 decision that declared segregation in public schooling unconstitutional.

The Briggses paid heavily for their role in the landmark court battle. Fired from their jobs and harassed in their hometown, the couple and their five children eventually moved to New York to find work, according to granddaughter Angela Smith. They returned to Summerton upon their retirement in the late 1970s.


Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 4

Published in Print: September 30, 1998, as Milestone
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