COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two young men and one young woman broke a decades-long color barrier 50 years ago when the three African-American students entered the University of South Carolina.
On Wednesday, civil rights leader and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young is coming to the campus in Columbia to help the school and two of the three former students begin a yearlong celebration of the event.
The university is recalling Sept. 11, 1963, when Robert Anderson, James Solomon and Henrie Monteith enrolled in classes on the Columbia campus.
On Wednesday morning, Solomon and Monteith, whose name is now Treadwell, are retracing the steps the day they entered USC’s administration building to enroll. A garden groundbreaking ceremony near the building is taking place afterward. Anderson passed away in 2009.
Young is slated to honor all three during his presentation at the Koger Center.
The three were able to peacefully sign up for classes after a lawsuit was filed on their behalf by African-American attorneys Donald James Sampson and Matthew James Perry Jr.
In 1972, Young was the first African-American from the deep South elected to Congress since Reconstruction. President Jimmy Carter appointed him U.N. ambassador five years later. In 1981, he was elected mayor of Atlanta.
Valinda Littlefield, USC’s director of African-American studies, said in a statement that the events have been designed to foster a discussion about equality and access to education.
Littlefield said the segregated schools in South Carolina in 1963 were a part of a system that determined by race how much education people received.
“The struggle to break down such barriers, which still include race, class, gender and ethnicity, is a long process and Anderson, Solomon and Monteith-Treadwell, along with numerous other brave souls, became pioneers to foster a more democratic society. We owe them a debt of gratit ude for their courage,” Littlefield said.
Anderson went on to become a social worker in New York City. Solomon led a lengthy career with the Department of Social Services in South Carolina, retiring as the agency’s commissioner.
In 1965, Treadwell again made headlines when she became the first black student to graduate from the university since 1877, earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. She conducts research at Morehouse School of Medicine, where she studies health care for underserved populations.
Other portions of the celebration include photo and historical exhibits at the university’s McKissick Museum and the South Caroliniana Library, a gospel choir concert and a dance performance. Panel discussions and a symposium on education are slated for the spring.
USC spokeswoman Megan Sexton said there were 3,466 students who identified themselves as African-American on the Columbia campus during the fall 2012 school year, the most recent date such statistics were compiled.