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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr. papers

Repository: Avery Research Center

Collection Description (Extant): The son of Cleveland and Pauline Taggart Sellers, Cleveland Sellers, Jr. was born in 1944 in Denmark, S.C., where his father was a businessman and his mother worked as a teacher at the South Carolina Area Trade School. Sellers attended local schools and started a student chapter of the NAACP. He attended Howard University and worked with the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in various civil rights causes around the south and was elected Program Secretary in 1965. In 1968, while organizing students at South Carolina State University, Sellers was shot in a melee that later became known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Three students died, and many were wounded; Sellers alone was indicted and convicted for inciting a riot and served time in jail, as he had for resisting the draft, a case that was later dismissed. In 1969, Sellers taught a black ideology course at Cornell University; and later received a Masters Degree from Harvard University. Living in North Carolina, he worked for the city of Greensboro in the Human Resources Department and later as a Housing Administrator; he became involved in many North Carolina related Civil Rights and black consciousness projects, including Malcolm X. Liberation University. He worked in Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Presidential Campaigns and received his Ed. D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in education administration in 1987. He was pardoned for his conviction in the Orangeburg Massacre in 1993, and went on to become Director of African American Studies at the University of South Carolina.

The majority of the collection details Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr.'s role in a variety of student, civil rights, leftist, and Pan African movements in the 1960s and 70's; with other materials documenting his personal, academic and professional life. Many of the materials are in photocopy form, the originals, severely water and mold damaged, having been removed.

A small series of personal papers include childhood magazine covers, papers re his draft resistance case (1967-1971); an unsuccessful bid for city council (1983) in Greensboro, NC; biographical clippings; a few scattered items from his mother Pauline Taggert Sellers’ youth and early marriage, including V Mail; data re other family members, and information re Denmark, and Bamberg County, SC churches and schools, including Voorhees College and the Denmark Chapter of the S.C. Area Trade Schools; with Seller’s contracts for his book The River of No Return. Personal correspondence (1960s-1990s) re Sellers’ political views and activities include letters (1968) from jail, with some mentions of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and events, legal problems and pardon relating to the Orangeburg Massacre. Materials on the latter topic include photocopies of court papers, Sellers’ appeal to the SC Supreme Court (c. 1970), clippings and responses re the event; and a radio and a film script based on the event, with related materials. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) papers (1960-1997, bulk 1960s) include reports, memos, etc. re its history, structure, administration, projects, publications, broadsides, etc. with references to Students for a Democratic Society, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown (Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin), Eldridge Cleaver and others; with photocopies of surveillance files on Sellers and the organization obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Committee. All African Revolutionary People’s Party materials (1972- 1989, bulk 1970s) detail its administration, membership levels, its ideology, influenced by the political thought of Kwame Nkrumah, and publications, including those from its program, African Liberation Day. Also in the collection are materials documenting various African countries and movements including copies of major documents of the Sixth Pan African Congress (1974), articles re the political philosophy of Ahmed Sekou Toure and a variety of materials from various domestic groups, committees, and organizations involved in Black Power and Pan Africa movements and Civil Rights, including the Black Panthers, Blacks United for Action (Columbia, SC), Congress of African People, National Black United Front and others. School-related organizations include the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU), with reports, memos, etc. (1960s-1970s) re its organization, goals and administration; various black student groups from a number of American colleges and universities, such as Cornell, Harvard and Duke, with a small amount of information re student unrest at Allen University (1967) and Voorhees College (1969), with more significant data (1969-1971) re the founding, organization, and administration, etc. of Malcolm X Liberation University, first located in Durham, NC; and photocopies of the legal papers documenting Dr. Sonja Haynes Stone’s anti-discrimination suit against UNC-Chapel Hill. North Carolina related materials include clippings, etc. re various commemorations of the student Woolworth’s Sit-In at Greensboro, NC, (1960) and similar materials re the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party attack on the Communist Worker’s Party in Greensboro in 1979.

Also included are various drafts of Sellers’ dissertation on the Civil Rights movement from 1954-1968. Printed materials include miscellaneous clippings from a variety of sources and newsletters from various organizations, often radical and short-lived. Scattered publications include The Black Panther, The Student Voice, SNCC Newsletter, SOBU Newsletter, The African World, The African Warrior, Black-On (Columbia, SC), The People’s Crusader (Atlanta, GA), Pan African Roots, New African, and many others; with political broadsides. Photographs of Cleveland Sellers and others including Stokely Carmichael and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Date(s): 1934-2003, bulk, 1960-1980

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: 1017

Extent: Approximately 9 linear ft.

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: See the interview with Sellers at he Avery Research Center.

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American civil rights workers
Black Panther Party
Civil rights movements--North Carolina
Civil rights movements--South Carolina
Mississippi Freedom Project
Orangeburg Massacre, Orangeburg, S.C., 1968
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)




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   May 15, 2015
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