CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The Second Annual Cherokee County ‘Portraits of Change: A Black History Exhibit’ is now open. It’s hosted by Gaffney’s ‘Preservation and Revitalization Coalition’.
Gaffney, South Carolina settled in 1804, many of their main streets are filled with businesses, likewise people in the African American community back in the day, there were businesses that lined the streets just like this owned by African Americans and now there is an exhibit that shows you that history.
Nestled in the heart of the current visitors center and former post office in Gaffney, South Carolina, sits a room filled with the history that helped to frame the town.
The Cherokee County Portraits of Change – Black History Exhibit, is a display meant to educate, inform and enlighten.
“One of the things that we are proud of that they will see is its about local individuals community members.”
Gaffney Preservation and Revitalization Coalition, Board Member, Wilbert Jamison Jr. said.
In the exhibit you’ll learn of Cherokee County Trailblazers and businesses like Glymph’s Market, Dr. Norris’ Medical Office and Mr. P.C. Little, funeral homes, recreation and even prominent communities like TankBranch, which was an extension of the downtown businesses.
“Tankbranch is very personal to me because that is where my relatives was at, that is where my grandmother, that is where my grandfather, that’s where my great grand father lived and had their businesses also.” Gaffney Preservation and Revitalization Coalition, Board Member, Altonnia Wilkins said.
During the 1940’s, 50’ and 60’s, the African American community was close-knit, so everything they needed to survive was available in their community.
A huge driving force behind the exhibit are people like Clarence Glymph, Sr. He owned a grocery store and ran for Gaffney City Council.
“This is a register that they retrieved from his building a couple of months ago and it was one of the original registers and they cleaned it up.” Gaffney City Council, Missy Reid Norris said.
The Ku Klux Klan sent a letter to his house, that was eventually published in the popular Jet magazine. It strongly encouraged him to drop out of the city council race which he eventually did for the safety of his family. Current Gaffney City Council woman Missy Reid Norris explains the connection.
“To me as a city council person now I feel as though we all are on his back . Back then he had the letter that was sent to his home, now we have the hateful emails, we have the hateful Facebook post.” Councilwoman Reid-Norris said.
Pictures and artifacts reveal stories, both public and private. Edward and Hattie LittleJohn both worked in Gaffney’s post Office in the 1800’s. Mr. Littlejohn eventually became Gaffney’s first African American Postmaster, appointed by President Roosevelt in 1892. On display is his certificate of appointment from Washington D.C. Former Gaffney City Council Member, Rufus Foster is Littlejohn’s grandson.
Artifacts from beauty and barber shops, posters advertising the Colored Fair, displays of preserves and newspaper articles, all spark stories of yester-year.
“This swimsuit here, it belongs to my father, it’s 1960 and this is what he wore at the black pool.”Wilkins Said.
The Gaffney Black Business District took form with the help of many in the community. P.T. Little had his own newspaper, keeping his people informed of events in politics, business and current events.
“In the middle of our research we had no idea that there was a guy that they called “Uncle Jake Corry”, he was the last Black Confederate Soldier.” Councilwoman Reid-Norris said.
While the Ku Klux Klan threatened Clarence Glymph and forced him out of the council race, he will never be forgotten. As current Gaffney city council members approved in 2022, $350 thousand dollars to create a “Heritage Garden” in honor of Mr. Clarence Glymph, near his former store. That building is still standing.
The Cherokee County ‘Portraits of Change Black History Exhibit’ is free and on display through February 28th at the Gaffney Visitor’s Center.
Here’s the link for more information on the exhibit: Portraits of Change: Black History in Cherokee County Exhibit – City of Gaffney, SC (getintogaffney.com)