Founded in 1801, then-South Carolina College flourished pre-Civil War, overcame
post-war struggles, was rechartered in 1906 as a university, and transformed itself as a national institution in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Having survived an 1811 earthquake that damaged DeSaussure, then known as North Building, and an 1855 fire that gutted Rutledge, the college finally succumbed to the upheaval of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
South Carolina's secession from the Union unleashed the devastation of war. The state and South Carolina College paid dearly. The institution closed in 1861 for want of students, and in the ensuing decades it struggled to regain the leading role in the region it had held during the antebellum era.
State leaders revived the institution in 1866 as the University of South Carolina with ambitious plans for a diverse university that included the first African Americans to serve on the Board of Trustees (1868) and the first African-American students (1873).
While politically controversial, this development was an extraordinary opportunity for South Carolinians at a time when opportunities for higher education were rare. The University of South Carolina became the only Southern state university to admit and grant degrees to African-American students during the Reconstruction era.
But with a nearly empty state treasury, the institution failed to reach its former status. Following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, South Carolina's conservative leaders closed the University. They reopened it in 1880 as an all-white agricultural college, and during the next 25 years the institution became enmeshed in the upheaval of late 19th century South Carolina politics.
Carolina went through several reorganizations in which the curriculum frequently changed and its status shifted from college to university and back again. In 1906, the institution was rechartered for the final time as the University of South Carolina. In the early decades of the 20th century, Carolina made strides toward becoming a comprehensive university, and in 1917 became the first state-supported college or university in South Carolina to earn regional accreditation.
The 1920s witnessed further progress and growth, with the introduction of new colleges and degree programs, including the doctorate. The Great Depression temporarily stalled this progress, but the outbreak of World War II launched an era that transformed the University. Carolina hosted Naval training programs (photograph, top) during the war, and enrollment more than doubled in the post-war era as veterans took advantage of the G.I. Bill.
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