Decline of Randolph Cemetery

From Reconstruction through the early 20th century Randolph Cemetery was the place of interment for some of South Carolina's most notable African-American citizens. By 1918 all of the originally planned plots in Randolph Cemetery were sold. During this same time the United States was in the throws of the Great Migration, were millions of African-American escaped the terrors of the Jim Crow south for freedom in Northern cities. This was also the beginning of the decline of Randolph Cemetery. Many of the descendants of those persons who had purchased family plots at Randolph Cemetery had relocated north.

Plots were left untended and the cemetery became overgrown. Other black cemeteries were established in the early 20th century in the city giving black citizens more options for interment. By the mid-20th century the cemetery would decline to become a wilderness. In 1959 the city of Columbia made plans to include Randolph Cemetery in its urban renewal program and arranged for the cemetery to be "cleared out". In the name of progress the city allowed a bulldozer and a local chain-gang to begin clearing out the cemetery destroying many of the burials. Fortunately a local African-American woman, Minnie Simons Williams, saw the destruction and alerted the city to the historical significance of the cemetery and had the clearing stopped.