Photo by Genevieve Boucher
The construction of a new sculpture titled “Forward Together” in front of the Fine Arts Center marks the 50th anniversary of the integration of Spartanburg High School in 1970. The Black high school, Carver High School, merged with Spartanburg High School, previously all white, to create a new school with staff and students from both schools. This transition was also the birth of the new mascot, the Viking, and the alternative school colors of navy and gold. The sculpture was created by Maria Kirby-Smith who is known for her work in downtown Greenville.
Principal Vance Jones is proud of the statues bringing the conversation of race unity to present day.
“I think it [the sculpture] represents the opportunity for students to live and learn together,” Jones said.
The bronze sculpture encapsulates the rich history of education in Spartanburg. One statue is of a Black male in a sweatshirt with a “C” to symbolize Carver High School, which was opened in the 1930s. Another statue shows a white male to signify Frank Evans High School, the precursor to Spartanburg High School, which opened in the 1920s. The third statue is of a Black female to represent the first African American student to integrate in 1964, named Wynona Douglas. Lastly, the fourth figure is of a white female who helped mediate the integration of Carver to Spartanburg High School and prevented boycotts, fights and protests.
Student Body President Elise Bryant (12) is proud of the representation of different people from different backgrounds shown through the statues.
“These statues are a symbol of being united as one while still having diversity,” Bryant said. “Through this piece of art, the students at Spartanburg High School are represented and reminded of our history.”
The four statues are situated on benches and appear to be in conversation with each other, while they invite others to sit with them at the empty fifth bench in the circle. This project was one of Dr. Russell Booker’s last before he retired as superintendent at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The sculpture creates conversation about racial unity in the midst of modern-day inequality.
“The most significant part of the sculpture is the bench that [the figures] are sitting on because it represents present and future,” Booker said in the Herald Journal.