Rural Education Featured in Work of Civil Rights Award Winner


Last Updated: January 28, 2010
 

This article appeared in the January 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Bud Ferillo, creator of the documentary film “Corridor of Shame: The Neglect of South Carolina’s Rural Schools,” is this year’s winner of the 25th annual Harvey Gantt Triumph Award. The award, sponsored by the YWCA of Greater Charleston, honors people “whose primary mission or business is focused on advancing the wellbeing of society and promoting principles of equality and opportunity.”
 
Ferillo, a native of Charleston, has been active in numerous civil rights campaigns. While in college he organized fellow students to help rebuild churches that had been burned by the Ku Klux Klan in Greenwood, Mississippi, and he worked registering voters on Johns Island, South Carolina as a volunteer with the Citizens Committee, directed by the late Esau Jenkins.
 
The award recognizes the accomplishments of civil rights activist Harvey Gantt, also a native of Charleston. Gantt spent his youth organizing voter registration drives and boycotts of Charleston businesses. In 1963, after a three-year fight, Gantt became the first black student admitted to Clemson University, and in 1983 he became the first black mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, where he is now the head of Gantt Huberman Architects.
 
Ferillo’s “Corridor of Shame” documents the deplorable conditions of rural schools along the I-95 corridor in South Carolina. The film has been widely distributed to help publicize the severe inequities in the state’s education system and to build support for addressing them.
 
Presenting the award to Ferillo on January 17 at the Morris Street Baptist Church in Charleston was 15-year-old Ty’Sheoma Bethea. Bethea came to national attention after she wrote a letter to congress and the president asking for support for her “corridor” school in Dillon. President Obama read from that letter in his first address to Congress last February, which Bethea attended as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
 
In presenting the award Bethea quoted her now-famous letter, underscoring the human stakes involved in the work and acknowledging the drive and commitment for which Ferillo was being honored. “We,” she said, “are not quitters.”
 
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Read more from the January 2010 Rural Policy Matters.