ORANGEBURG (WACH) - Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which helped shape our country as we know it.
"It symbolizes a very wonderful moment in America when this country finally steps forward to try to even out its treatment of African American citizens." says Cecil Williams of Orangeburg.
Cecil Williams remembers the signing of the Civil Rights Act like it was yesterday, having been raised in South Carolina during the heat of the civil rights movement.
Williams says he became a photographer when he was only nine years old, and that passion allowed him to capture some of the most powerful images from a tumultuous time in American history.
"This was a picture taken at Claflin University...Thurgood Marshall within a week or two after his victory with the Supreme Court in achieving the Brown versus Board of Education decision." explains Cecil as he shows a photograph of Justice Marshall at the podium at Claflin.
Years later, Cecil was able to capture images of friends carrying on the fight begun by Justice Marshall.
"This is a picture of me and my classmates from Claflin University marching down Russell Street in Orangeburg and this picture was taken about 1960. Achieving what they were really marching for. Freedom. Justice. Equality. And of course, down with segregation." Cecil describes as he looks at a picture of students marching down the street with handwritten signs.
Four years later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
The landmark piece of legislation gave African Americans the rights they had been fighting to gain for years.
The Act enforced the constitutional rights of all citizens and gave the courts power to intervene in instances of discrimination.
It called for an end to segregation in public schools, public facilities, and federally assisted programs.
"Looking back, we've come 50 years, but I hope that these gains that were made and these achievements will not be eroded by some of the things that's happening in America today. That's my only wish at this time." says Cecil.
A wish that Cecil is keeping alive through photographs, making sure future generations will remember voices of the past.
Cecil says he believes he has the largest collection of civil rights images of any living photographer.
You can learn more about him and his collection of photographs at http://cecilwilliams.com/#/612441/HISTORICALLY-SIGNIFICANT-ICONS