University of South Carolina

Examining the roles of African-Americans at USC

By Kathy Henry Dowell, University Libraries, kdowell@mailbox.sc.edu

A new exhibit at South Caroliniana Library takes a comprehensive look at the roles African-Americans have played on the University of South Carolina campus, from its beginnings early in the 19th century to its desegregation in 1963.

“1801-1963: The Long Road to Desegregation at the University of South Carolina” is one of the signature exhibits and events for USC’s kickoff to a year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of its desegregation. The kickoff will mark 50 years since three African-American students enrolled at USC on Sept. 11, 1963.

The exhibit doesn’t just focus on the 1963 desegregation, however.

“African-Americans have been a constant presence on the campus since its very beginning,” said University Archivist Elizabeth West. “They played vital though largely unseen and unacknowledged roles in the development and operation of the institution. The exhibit examines these roles through different periods of university history, culminating in the 1963 event that finally transformed the university into the flagship institution for all of the citizens of South Carolina.

“During the antebellum years, enslaved African-Americans provided the labor force that not only literally built the university campus but also was instrumental in its daily operations,” West said. “So the exhibit includes documents from these antebellum years that show the type of duties performed by slaves on campus. An 1875 normal school photograph shows African American women on campus.

“During Reconstruction, the university was briefly integrated, and African-Americans not only attended as students but also served as faculty and trustees,” West said. “With the end of Reconstruction, the university was once again segregated, but African-Americans continued to work on campus.”

From the 1930s onward, the university blocked several attempts by African-Americans to enroll as students.

“Pressure on the institution increased with the rise of the Civil Rights movement,” West said. “Once university and state officials realized that desegregation would occur, they determined it would be done as peacefully as possible. So the exhibit also includes documents and images that detail the university’s fight against desegregation, and then final plans for a peaceful desegregation.”

South Caroliniana Library is located on the historic Horseshoe. The exhibit, which is free and open to the community, is on display in the Lumpkin Foyer Sept. 6 – Dec. 20.

For more information, including South Caroliniana Library hours, visit http://library.sc.edu/socar/index.html.

Posted: 09/10/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 09/10/13 @ 3:17 PM | Permalink