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Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture: Joseph Cabaniss Civil Rights Law Collections

This guide will provide researchers and visitors to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture information about our collections, on genealogy, and about local attractions relating to Blacks/African Americans.



In 2019, the Avery Research Center received a financial donation by Joseph Warren Cabaniss’ sons. This support bolstered the Center’s efforts to preserve and share stories of African Americans in the Lowcountry, from their arrival in North America through enslavement, emancipation, segregation, migration, and the civil rights movement to today.

As a student leader, Cabaniss’ tenure at the College of Charleston was marked by academic success and social activism: A member of Pi Kappa Phi, recipient of the Bryan Mathematics Prize, and vice president of the Cliosophic Literary Society.

This commitment to excellence continued after commencement. Upon graduation, Cabaniss received the Robert Worth Bingham Prize for a speech advocating the end of racial segregation. After earning his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Cabaniss embarked on a career as an attorney, faithfully serving his community, including as chairman of the Charleston Council on Human Relations. He also served on a committee appointed by Governor McNair to attempt to resolve the 1969 strike by hospital workers at MUSC. In 1996, the South Carolina Law School Alumni Association recognized Cabaniss with the “Compleat Lawyer” Award. In 2006, the College of Charleston presented him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

In honor of Joe’s distinguished career in law and life-long pursuit of justice and equality, the Center has created decided to designate particular collections relating to law and civil rights to be a part of the Joseph Cabaniss Civil Rights Law Collection. These collections are from key players the arena of civil rights law in the Lowcountry. The preservation of the Joseph Cabaniss Civil Rights Law Collections is supported by Stephen, Thomas, and Henry Cabaniss in memory of their father, Joseph “Joe” Cabaniss ’47.


Image from banner: Joe Cabaniss ’47. From the 1947 edition of The Comet.

Manuscript Collections

Robert N. Rosen legal papers, 1941-1994 (bulk 1981-1990) [AMN 1028]

The son of Ida and Morris Rosen, Robert N. Rosen was born in 1947 in Charleston, South Carolina, where his mother was a teacher and his father an attorney. Rosen attended public schools in Charleston and was a student at Rivers High School when it became the first integrated school in the city. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1973. He served as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Charleston (1976-1985); as general counsel for the Charleston County School District (1982-2003) and for the Charleston Housing Authority (1984-2003). In the three cases represented in this collection, he defended the Charleston County School system against the initial charge that the Charleston County School District violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Rosen is also the author of several books on historical topics.

Each series in this collection contains court documents and legal proceedings pertaining to the three court trials of United States of America and Richard Ganaway, II et al. vs. Charleston County School District and State of South Carolina, in which Rosen and Alice F. Paylor, of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood, Charleston, S.C. successfully represented the defendants, Charleston County School District and State of South Carolina. The collection primarily follows the original order of the Rosen, Rosen & Hagood Law Firm, and is divided into six series. The first five (Judgment; Pleadings; Discovery; Testimonies; and Exhibits, Defendants and Plaintiff-Intervener) contain court transcripts, legal proceedings, reports, memorandums, correspondence and documents pertaining to the three court trials. The remaining series, Attorney Files, consists of sub-series of Desegregation Cases, School Board Minutes and Charleston County School District Correspondence, Charleston County School District Magnet Schools materials, Numbered Documents, and Miscellaneous Reports.

John C. Ruoff papers, ca. 1972-2002 (bulk 1992-2000)[AMN 1027]

John Carl Ruoff (b.1948) received a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1976, specializing in social and cultural history of the 19th century American South. Starting in 1987, he has worked as Executive and then Research Director for South Carolina Fair Share, a civil rights advocacy group, providing statistical and demographic technical assistance and support to community groups. He has also provided policy analysis and advocacy on consumer, utility, and telecommunications issues, and gave expert legal testimony for several legal cases during his career.

The collection, following the original order of the donor, contains materials grouped by subject, consisting almost exclusively of demographics, statistics, and data collected by John C. Ruoff in his capacity as Director of South Carolina Fair Share. The bulk is mostly data and statistics regarding legal cases for which Ruoff provided expert testimony. Legal cases include NAACP v. City of Columbia (1993), NAACP v. Richland County, Williams v. Baldwin County Commission, Able v. Wilkins, Smith v. Beasley, NAACP v. Kershaw County, and NAACP v. Spartanburg County Board of Education mostly regarding voting rights, local and state cases concerning reapportionment and redistricting, school desegregation, deregulation and restructuring of the electric industry and bus routes involving the SC Electric and Gas Co., auto insurance reforms, and various other economic and social reforms such as crack-addicted babies, teen pregnancy, statutory and marital rape, and other issues

Julius Waties Waring (1880-1968), a Charleston native and attorney became a Federal Judge in 1942. At the time of his divorce and remarriage in 1945 to Elizabeth A. Hoffman (1895-1966), he began to hand down more liberal decisions, such as equalizing the pay of black and white teachers and outlawing South Carolina's white-only Democratic Primary. He soon ruled that separate but equal was per se inequality. In 1952, the Warings moved to New York City.

This collection consists entirely of photocopied materials from the Moorland-Spingarn Library's collections of Judge J. Waties Waring Materials. The correspondence series contains copies of letters from Septima Clark and Ruby Cornwell to Elizabeth Waring regarding national and local civil rights and election issues, the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), changing times and Clark's citizen education work for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, among other topics. Photocopies of legal proceedings including some from the Briggs versus Elliott law case fighting unequal school facilities for African Americans and some from the case of John Wrighten (with Thurgood Marshall as attorney) versus the Trustees of the University of South Carolina for his being denied entrance to the law school due to his race, and the unequal education a new law school for African Americans would provide.

armand-derfnerArmand Derfner Legal Papers [AMN 1049]

Armand Derfner (1938- ) is a Charleston-based noted civil rights attorney, well-known for his work outlawing at-large elections in local governments. Derfner's papers document his professional work since establishing his legal practice in South Carolina in 1974. The papers are organized according to legal cases.

The bulk of the material concerns civil rights issues argued by Derfner at various South Carolina courts. Over 70 court cases are documented, with issues discussed relating mainly to racial discrimination, school desegregation, voting rights, employment rights, free speech and property rights in South Carolina. Cases challenging the local and federal governments to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1964 in order to address the dilution of African American voting power and issues of racial discrimination and inequality in election procedures are well documented. Also included are videotapes of the Charleston 5, the alleged riot of Charleston Longshoreman Union members which resulted in an out-of-court settlement.

Selected Library Resources

Online Resources

Digitized Materials from Other Collections

Records Relating to the Hospital Workers' Strike

Images from Avery's Remodel