Jade Battiste

Graduate comes full circle, earning degree her father helped start

Jade Battiste is grateful for her parents’ patient support as she has traveled a nontraditional path to her bachelor’s degree. But she is especially grateful to her father, Luther Battiste, who helped create the African American Studies program at the University of South Carolina 50 years ago.

“He opened a door for me that he didn’t even know he was opening,” says Jade Battiste, 33, who earned her degree in African American Studies this month from the College of Arts and Sciences .

After graduating from high school, Jade Battiste went to Hampton University in Virginia, but left after deciding it was not a good fit. She did some traveling and took classes at other colleges. When she came back home to Columbia, she applied to UofSC’s hospitality program but did not get in.

“That has been my biggest motivation,” she says. “My graduation now is monumental in that regard.”

My main goal is to take what I’ve learned and try to be a vehicle for change and a voice for the voiceless.

Jade Battiste, '19 African American Studies

She completed an associate degree at Midlands Technical College and decided to reapply to South Carolina after a trip to the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston with her mother, Judy Battiste — who has two master’s degrees from UofSC.

“They had a Jacob Lawrence exhibit and I fell in love with the artwork and fell in love with interpreting it,” Jade Battiste says. “My mom suggested I look at African American Studies.”

It has been an interesting course of study, she says, particularly one class that required students to do a project about a civil rights activist. One of the names on the list was her father, who was the first African American to graduate from UofSC’s international studies program and one of the first black Columbia City Council members since Reconstruction.

At first, she thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to do her project on her own father, who also served as campaign manager for the first African American student body president at UofSC, but her teacher encouraged her to do it.

“In my research, I found out that my father was the co-author of the proposal for the African American Studies department,” Battiste says. “I was floored when I found that out. It just is so beautiful how the universe connects you right back to where you are supposed to be. It was amazing.”

Battiste works with the Center for Civil Rights History and Research, a position she hopes to keep after graduation as she begins looking at other opportunities, including possibly graduate school.

“I would like to get into any business where I can use my expertise with diversity and inclusion,” Battiste says. “My main goal is to take what I’ve learned and try to be a vehicle for change and a voice for the voiceless.”

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about