September 11, 1963: A Day that Changed South Carolina History
By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick
As Robert G. Anderson, Henrie Dobbins Monteith, and James L. Solomon Jr. approached the registration desks to enroll in their classes for the fall semester of 1963, the state of South Carolina witnessed a watershed moment that instigated the destruction of Jim Crow legislation that previously held a stranglehold on racial progress in the southern states. In reflecting upon the University’s atmosphere in this pivotal transition period, Monteith recalled “The future was drumming at the heels of South Carolina in 1962-63, but only a few of us were listening.” In becoming the first African Americans to enroll in the University since the Reconstruction period that followed the Civil War, Anderson, Monteith, and Solomon followed a legacy of grassroots activism that defined black southerners for over three centuries.
The desire for education, of course, has always held significant motivation in challenging the status quo, no matter one’s age. Just as former slaves like Frederick Douglass had taught themselves to read despite the proscriptions against slave literacy, African Americans barred from the South Carolina’s flagship institution in the twentieth century initiated a peaceful, but vocal, campaign that challenged legislative enactments that held firm for nearly a century. By toppling the legislative restrictions, Anderson, Montieth, and Solomon also spurred cultural changes that helped chip away the social barriers that prevented interaction and cultural understanding between white and black South Carolinians. The diversity seen on campus today is a testament to this critical event that took place on September 11, 1963.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that each of these students pursued degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences. As the Dean of this remarkable college, I was humbled to take part in the first of many events to commemorate their courageous actions. I look forward to the many events scheduled throughout this academic year (http://www.sc.edu/desegregation/), I hope that this commemoration promotes further awareness of the events of 1963 and serves as motivation to continuously combat social injustices that continue to plague American society.
Photos in the order that they appear on the page.
1. Iconic 1963 photo, Robert G. Anderson, Henrie Monteith Treadwell and James L. Solomon Jr.
2. 50 years later, Henrie Monteith Treadwell and James L. Solomon Jr.
3. Tyler Parry, History graduate student.