“Outside Agitator”: Civil Rights Icon Cleveland Sellers and biographer to appear at SC State

Dr. Cleveland Sellers was considered the scapegoat for one of the most tragic civil rights events of the 1960s, the Orangeburg Massacre. Now, his life story is the subject of an incisive, new biography, “Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers Jr.”

Both Sellers and the author of the book, Adam Parker, will speak at South Carolina State University on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building recital hall. The event will be followed by a reception in the Fine Arts Building lobby. Both are free and open to the public.  The 276-page book was recently featured on C-SPAN’s “Book TV,” and includes many photographs of Sellers’ life, from his childhood in Denmark, South Carolina to his career as a civil rights activist and educator.

“I’m excited to bring the remarkable story of Cleveland Sellers to the campus of SC State University, a school that played a central role in Sellers’ life,” said Parker.

“It was there that the Orangeburg Massacre took place in February 1968. It was there that unarmed black students protesting segregation in town and unequal treatment on campus were gunned down by state troopers. It was there that Sellers imagined he might continue his own education. It was there that the trajectory of his life took a fateful turn,” he continued.

Parker noted that Feb. 6 is the anniversary of the Orangeburg bowling alley protest that led up to the tragedy.

Parker and Sellers have been on a speaking tour with the book since its release last November. The tour has taken them to various places, including Charleston, South Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“This is important history that too few of us fully appreciate,” Parker said. I am thrilled to have the support of SC State University in revisiting this and other aspects of Sellers’ experiences, all recounted in ‘Outside Agitator.'”

“Outside Agitator” is the story of Sellers’ early activism: organizing a lunch counter sit-in as a 15-year-old, registering voters in Alabama and Mississippi, refusing the Vietnam War draft, serving as the national program director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and working alongside 1960s civil rights icons, Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr., H. Rap Brown and Malcolm X.

The book also tells the story of his lifelong struggle to overcome the Orangeburg incident and his slow crawl to justice. That journey takes him to Harvard University, then to a hard-fought position of civil service in Greensboro, North Carolina. In a triumphant conclusion to his career, the University of South Carolina elevated Sellers to chair its African-American Studies program. Additionally, Voorhees College, the historically black college in his hometown, respectfully called him to be its president.

Parker’s insightful biography of Sellers is about a proud black man who refuses to be defeated- one whose tumultuous life story personifies America’s continuing civil rights struggle.

Library Journal gave the book a starred review and stated, “With vivid details, Parker unpacks Sellers’ upbringing and influences, portraying the realities of segregated South Carolina and presenting an ultimately compelling read about an educator and activist. Readers of historical biography, especially about civil rights and justice, will enjoy this informative work.”

Parker earned degrees in music, then spent a decade in the business world before going back to school to earn a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University. He taught journalism as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston and then landed a job at The Post and Courier, where he worked as a copy editor, metro editor, general assignment reporter, restaurant critic, religion reporter, arts writer and more.

A long-time student of the civil rights movement and race in America, he has written extensively about the African-American experience. “Outside Agitator” is his first book and was published by Hub City Press in Spartanburg.

For more information about the book signing, contact Davion Petty at (803) 516-4599 or dpetty@scsu.edu.

 

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