On March 10, Converse College graduate and Columbia, S.C.-based attorney Laura Callaway Hart ’75 will return to her alma mater to discuss the pivotal role she played in the infamous “Corridor of Shame” court case which pitted eight rural South Carolina school districts against the state government. The pro bono lawsuit called for the State to meet its constitutional obligation to provide a “minimally adequate education” to the thousands of students in these schools, some of whom are educated in dilapidated facilities dating back to the 1800s. The judge’s ruling in the case is currently being appealed by both sides.
Hart’s presentation, which is free and open to the public, is made possible by Converse’s Nancy Oliver Gray Visiting Scholars Series and will begin at 6 p.m. in the Barnet Room of the Montgomery Student Center.
“But What About Us?,” a traveling exhibition of photographs taken by students in the affected districts, will be on display in the lobby of the Montgomery Student Center March 5-26 and will be accompanied with the “Corridor of Shame” documentary. A reception for viewing the exhibit will immediately follow Hart’s presentation. Hart’s event is also a headlining event for the Women’s History Month celebration at Converse.
The compelling 102-day “Corridor of Shame” trial attracted national attention and earned Hart’s law firm (Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough) the John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association. Hart later participated as a panelist at the Apollo Theatre in New York City for a discussion moderated by Newsweek’s contributing editor. Earlier this year, U.S. presidential candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties toured schools in the corridor, and the case was cited on the CBS Evening News as a hot-button topic for the primary elections in S.C.
The “Corridor of Shame” moniker is attached to a swath of South Carolina counties that serves as home to 136,000 students in thirty-six public school districts where some classes are held in dilapidated facilities dating back to the 1800s. Raw sewage seeps into their classrooms during heavy rains, and they bundle under layers of clothing on winter mornings when classroom temperatures drop.