Today in Columbia, at the corner of Blossom and Main, stands the Honors Residence Hall, South Carolina Honors College students bustling about inside its sunny yellow walls, laughing in the dining hall, playing Frisbee in the courtyard. It is hard to imagine that the land where that building now stands was once home to a much different community dating back to the Reconstruction era, the Ward One community. When urban renewal swept the region in the 50s and 60s, the physical community was virtually destroyed. This past June, University of South Carolina student Sarah Koslov began to rediscover the Ward One community, past and present, and help remedy this situation.
“We wanted to make an exhibit about social change,” Koslov, student curator of the exhibit, explained about her work with the Honors College. As she explored ideas, Dr. Ed Munn Sanchez, Associate Dean of the Honors College, recommended that she talk to Dr. Bobby J. Donaldson, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, who works with a community called Ward One. This led Koslov to the current historical Ward One Organization of Columbia, an association for the residents from the original Ward One community founded by Beatrice Richardson in 1991.
“The Ward One Organization still strives to have a presence and a name,” Koslov said. Since the Ward One Organization is comprised mainly of residents from the original community, many of the members are getting older. Just weeks ago, the organization lost one of its unofficial historians and most beloved members, Ms. Agnes Perez. Because of this, Koslov said, “There is a sense of urgency in trying to get a permanent legacy established.”
In her research, Koslov contacted numerous people connected to Ward One. Two Honors College students, Paige Fennell and Ashley Nichole Bouknight, had previously done Honors theses related to the community, so their work served as a basis for her exhibit. She gathered information and, most importantly, photographs of Ward One residents from the past theses, Dr. Donaldson, and Ward One Organization members, especially its President, Mattie Anderson-Roberson, former resident of Ward One and the first woman in South Carolina to receive an athletic scholarship to further her education.
“There was an industry aspect to Ward One … but this exhibit is more about the people and personality of Ward One,” Koslov explained. Her final project is a historical photo exhibit, The Space on Which You Stand, with five sections: People, Neighborhood, School, Church, and Ward One Today. Each section features a text panel with historical information and photographs of the old Ward, focusing on its people and the close-knit community they built. Ward One was an impoverished community but, as one resident recalled, “We were poor. We just didn’t know it.” The photos and panels are hung by cords in a hanging system that Koslov installed when she designed the new, reusable exhibit space.
“This is just a small effort to increase public awareness of Ward One,” Koslov said. “It is a project very near and dear to my heart.”
The exhibit opens Wednesday, October 23, at 4:00 pm in the Honors Residence Hall room B110 with a reception following. The exhibit is free and open to the public and located in USC’s Honors Residence Hall, located at 1215 Blossom Street, on the first floor. The exhibit will be up through the rest of this semester. For more information about the event, email Sarah Koslov at Koslov@email.sc.edu or visit: artsandsciences.sc.edu/opening-space-which-you-stand-photo-exhibition.
Part of the historical Ward One Organization’s efforts to raise public awareness included the addition of a website for Ward One, designed by Honors College graduate Jade McDuffie for USC’s Discovery Day in 2012. To learn more about Ward One, visit: wardone.wix.com/wardone.
“Ward One is no longer a physical community,” Koslov said. “It is a community based on nostalgia and memory.” However, the community is as strong as ever. Their quest to raise awareness and remembrance continues as the Ward One Organization’s mantra declares, “We are not done with the old Ward One … Gone, but not forgotten."
-- Jackie Mohan, Jasper intern