Joseph DeLaine

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Joseph Armstrong DeLaine (1898-1974) was a Methodist minister and civil rights leader from Clarendon County, South Carolina. He received a B.A. from Allen University in 1931, working as a laborer and running a dry cleaning business to pay for his education. DeLaine worked with Modjeska Simkins and the South Carolina NAACP on the case Briggs v. Elliott, which became one of the five cases argued under Brown v. Board of Education.

Briggs v. Elliott, (342 U.S. 350, 1952), was the first of the five cases later combined into Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools. Briggs v. Elliott challenged segregation in Summerton, South Carolina. Due to his involvement in the case, DeLaine's home and church were burned down.

DeLaine decided to leave South Carolina, and never returned, after a warrant was issued for his arrest for returning gunfire when his parsonage later came under hostile gunfire. He fled first to New York City and then to Buffalo, New York, where he founded another Methodist church. As a result of efforts begun in 1955, DeLaine was pardoned in 2000 by the South Carolina State Parole Board.

DeLaine also memorably taught school in South Carolina, and in 2006 was inducted into South Carolina's Educational Hall of Honor at the University of South Carolina.

Rev. DeLaine and three other plaintiffs in the Briggs v. Elliott case were posthumously awarded Congressional gold medals in 2004 for their courage and persistence despite repeated acts of domestic violence against them.

In popular culture

Playwright Loften Mitchell wrote a 1963 play based on DeLaine's story titled Land Beyond the River.

Actor Ossie Davis also wrote a short play, The People of Clarendon County, which starred himself, his wife, Ruby Dee, and Sidney Poitier. It was featured, as was the case predating Brown v. Board of Education in which DeLaine played an important role, in Alice Bernstein's illustrated book with the same title.

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