1914: Blues musician Josh White was born in Greenville. He’ll go on to be one of the most well-known performers of his time by the 1940s, most notably for his song “One Meatball,” about poverty in the Great Depression.
1941: The first African American air-fighting unit starts out in Tuskegee, Alabama. The pilots became known as the Tuskegee Airmen and won air battles during World War II. One of those pilots, Ernest Henderson, hailed from Laurens County.
1947: After the murder of a white taxi driver, a young man named Willie Earle was accused and held in a Pickens County jail. A white mob descended upon the jail, taking Earle to Greenville where he was lynched. An all-white jury acquitted the mob over the condemnation of then-governor Strom Thurmond.
1960: A series of sit-ins are held by African American students beginning in March 1960 to protest segregation in Greenville, including at the Greenville County Library. The library eventually reopened as an integrated one.
1961: Due West’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault became one of the first two African Americans to attend the University of Georgia. She went on to report for media outlets like The New York Times, NPR, PBS and CNN.
1963: Harvey Gantt became the first African American enrolled at Clemson University after a lengthy legal battle. Gantt later served as the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
1971: Benjamin E. Mays, a civil rights activist and preacher from Greenwood County, published the civil rights text “Born To Rebel: An Autobiography.” He served as a professor at Morehouse College and is remembered as a “spiritual mentor” to his former student Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1978: Janie Glymph Goree became the first African American female mayor in state history when she was elected mayor of Carlisle in Union County.
1984: Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. becomes the first Greenville native and second African American to mount a nationwide presidential campaign. He would run again in 1988.
2006: Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a paid Greenville County holiday.
2008: U.S. Sen. Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic Primary. The future president beat his opponents by a 28.9% margin.