The Museum of Greenwood celebrates Black History Month with a collection of memories and mementos from Greenwood native Elnita Lipford Williams and with an exhibit based on the 1998 book, “The 521 All-Stars: A Championship Story of Baseball and Community.
The opening reception for these exhibits has been moved to 5:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 20.
Marion Smith, The Museum exhibits coordinator, said planning for Memories and Mementos on the Museum’s main floor, started about a year ago.
“Mrs. Williams was born and raised here,” Smith said. “Her grandmother was an evangelist. She has all of these wonderful things from her childhood. ... It’s these bits and pieces of her life. There are pictures, dresses, model cars and dolls.”
Williams said the exhibit offers a look at her life, growing up black in Greenwood during the 1960s. She and her husband, John L. Williams, minister at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Darlington and reside in Florence. Her husband is also an engineer with Duke Energy.
“But, some of the earlier artifacts are things my grandmother played with in the ‘20s and ‘30s,” Williams said. “She held on to them and we just like preserving our family history and the Lipford name. I’m almost 50 years old. There are a lot of my baby items. It was by chance that I met Mr. Smith.”
An only child, Williams said she grew up in a loving home surrounded by strong role models, including grandmother who was a minister and another who was an evangelist.
“I taught my maternal grandfather how to read and he taught me how to tell time,” Williams said. Williams said the Lipford family also has an endowed scholarship at Piedmont Technical College.
The baseball team exhibit upstairs, Smith said, offers a glimpse into a community baseball league from Rembert, near Sumter.
“A photographer and an author spent a year with the team in 1998,” Smith said. “They produced a book and this exhibit, which is monitored by the South Carolina State Museum.”
In 1996, author Frye Gaillard was driving on highway 521 in Sumter County and came upon a homemade ballpark. He and photographer Byron Baldwin spent a season and a half watching and studying the league, comprised of teams of black players.
Recently, Smith said he and The Museum’s executive director Karen Jennings traveled to Rembert to meet with seven of the championship team’s members.
“This exhibit tells the team’s story,” Smith said. “The camaraderie they still have is just wonderful. They played to win, but it was all in good fun.”
At one time, there were at least a dozen such community baseball teams in South Carolina, Smith said.