Cleveland L. Sellers Jr., president of Voorhees College, will join the President’s Forum Speaker Series on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. Active in the civil rights movement, Sellers worked as an advocate for justice and human rights and has been a lifelong educator. He was named president of Voorhees College in April of 2008. The title of his talk will be, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle!”
Sellers helped organize a student protest at a Denmark, S.C., lunch counter in support of the Woolworth’s sit-ins in Greensboro and worked alongside veterans of the civil rights movement such as Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, Fannie Lou Hamer and Esau Jenkins. During a march across Mississippi, he formed a special bond with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1968, Sellers was the only person convicted in a clash between protesters and state police on the South Carolina State University campus in an incident that later became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre.” Three men were killed by police and 27 wounded, Sellers among them. He received a full pardon 25 years later.
Prior to becoming president at Voorhees, Sellers was director of the African-American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina (USC) and taught in the Department of History and the African-American Studies Program. He is a former member of the South Carolina State Board of Education, Second Judicial District. He has served as a speaker, presenter and panelist at numerous conferences around the country.
Sellers is the author of “Preface, Cameraman Man’s Journey,” “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement,” “River of No Return,” “Education in Our Community,” “The Carolina Peacemaker” and “Why Historically Black Colleges Should Offer Courses in Gerontology and Geriatrics.” Additionally, he has worked as a historian and consultant for several documentaries, including ESPN’s “Black Magic,” Tom Brokaw’s “1968,” College of Charleston’s Emmy award-winning, “Where Do We Go From Here,” and Blackside Production’s classic, “Eyes on the Prize.”
In the community, he serves as a warden at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Denmark and was past board member of the Episcopal Church Foundation. He is president of the Denmark Recreation Center Inc., and is active with the African American Heritage Committee, the Organization of American Historians and Southern Historical Association.
He has received numerous awards and honors, including in 2003 being presented with the Key to the City of Columbia, S.C. In the same year, Sellers was given the I. DeQuincy Newman Trailblazer Award by the USC Chapter of NAACP. He was named instructor emeritus by USC in 2008.
He holds a bachelor’s degree at Shaw University, a master’s in education from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, the President’s Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. Recent speakers include activist speaker Judy Shepard; Mayor of Ithaca Svante Myrick, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund; political activist and author the Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle.