Background & Context

Brief Background of Clemson College and Desegregation in a National Context

Clemson University was originally named the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina and it started out as an all white military school. Clemson College opened its door in 1893 with 446 students and in 1955, the college was transformed into a “civilian” status school and it began admitting white women. 

Following the landmark decision of the US Supreme Court Case, Brown v. Board of Education, public schools were no longer allowed to remain segregated, this also applied to public Universities. This case was decided in 1954 but there was no clear outline for how quickly schools and colleges had to end racial segregation, they just had to do it a “deliberate speed”. One of the first cases dealing with segregation in a university that made national news was in 1962. There was an African American veteran named James Meredith, who was the first Black student to be admitted to the University of Mississippi. Knowing that there would be tension on campus, Federal law enforcements accompanied Meredith during his registration for classes, but a riot occurred on campus where two civilians were killed. Meredith eventually registered for classes, attended classes, and graduated from Ole Miss by 1963, but there was always a fear of violence occurring at any point during his college life. About a decade before the admission of James Meredith, a Black student began seeking admission to Clemson College in 1956. According to a News and Courier article in 1956, a Black military officer applied to Clemson College just two years after Brown v. Board of Education. The student applied but was not admitted under the state law that barred “mixing of the races in schools and colleges”

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