COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina will honor the three Black students who desegregated the school in 1963.
The university plans to erect statues on the Columbia campus commemorating the historic day when they enrolled and became the first Black university students since the Reconstruction era. That act paved the way for several generations of future scholars.
The university’s Board of Trustees voted on Feb. 18 to put up the statues celebrating Robert G. Anderson, Henrie Monteith Treadwell and James L. Solomon Jr. The statues will portray the three students as they took their historic walk from the administration building to the Naval Armory (now Hamilton College) where they first registered for classes on the morning of Sept. 11, 1963.
“The University of South Carolina has a long and complex history,” said Board Chair C. Dorn Smith, III M.D. “The action today celebrates the achievements—and the tremendous courage—of those who fought to make the university a place where all South Carolinians are welcomed.”
Anderson, Treadwell and Solomon’s enrollment came three years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling. It also followed violent unrest at other southern campuses that had already desegregated.
According to USC, the university planned for months to ensure the three students’ enrollment at South Carolina would be peaceful. Their registration process was captured by national media and lasted only about 20 minutes, but the significance of the 1963 event reverberates to this day, said Board of Trustee member Alex English.
“My enrollment at the university less than a decade later would not have been possible if not for the bravery of these three students,” English said. “Our university continues to make great strides, but our work to ensure greater inclusivity is not done. I hope these statues serve both to educate and inspire others to continue to break barriers.”
Anderson died in 2009, but Treadwell and Solomon returned to the university in 2014 to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of their enrollment and to dedicate the campus’ Desegregation Garden.
“The grace, maturity and resolve exhibited by those three young students, then and in the years since, cannot be overstated,” Interim President Harris Pastides said. “They carried the weight of history on their shoulders on that momentous day in 1963. They lived up to expectations beyond their years, withstood the hostility of those who opposed desegregation, and continued to represent the highest ideals of a just society. This lasting memorial on our campus will be a fitting tribute.”
The university will soon begin a process of selecting a sculptor for the project, followed by a final project approval by the Board.
The statues are expected to be unveiled in the fall of 2023.
Friday’s vote follows a series of steps by the university to tell the story of its history and to honor those who deserve greater recognition, the university said. In January, the university announced the naming of a residence hall after education pioneer and South Carolina College alumna Celia Dial Saxon.
The statues of Anderson, Treadwell and Solomon will be only the fourth statue on the university’s campus honoring individuals. Other statues include Richard T. Greener, the school’s first African American professor, Gamecock football great George Rogers and women’s basketball star A’ja Wilson.
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