South Carolina’s Corridor of Shame
This sleepy town of 7,000 is known for its marriage chapel, the fluorescent glow of the “South of the Border” roadside attraction, and for being the hometown of Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke, along with most other public school students in the area, attended J.V. Martin Junior High, what is now a notorious, ramshackle 118-year-old school building that educators say is an edifice to the persistent inequality in South Carolina public schools.
J.V. Martin housed students up until two years ago, when a new school was built across town. However, it remains the heart of South Carolina’s “Corridor of Shame,” the nickname for the region of rural, impoverished school districts mainly along Interstate 95 burdened by dilapidated and poorly performing schools.
The region is dotted with flat farmland and shells of industries that have moved on to wherever labor is cheaper, taking their tax dollars with them. In their wake is economic hardship and what many say is a racial disparity in access to basic quality education. The region is poor, with a population that is 88 percent minority compared to the state average of 48 percent.