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'Days of silence and marginalization' are over: USC marks 60th anniversary of desegregation

The University of South Carolina will unveil a statue in 2024 on the Horseshoe that will honor the first three Black students to enroll at the state's flagship college.
Maayan Schechter
The University of South Carolina will unveil a statue in 2024 on the Horseshoe that will honor the first three Black students to enroll at the state's flagship college.

The University of South Carolina will unveil a 12-foot bronze monument in 2024 that will honor the first three Black students to enroll at the university on Sept. 11, 1963.

Henrie Monteith Treadwell doesn't describe her actions on Sept. 11, 1963, as an act of bravery.

Rather, Treadwell — one of three Black students who integrated the University of South Carolina 60 years ago — called it an act of leadership that broke barriers and forever changed the state's flagship college.

"We three were the little engine that could — and did," Treadwell said Monday.

On Monday, the University of South Carolina marked the 60th anniversary of desegregation at the very site where a 12-foot bronze monument will next year stand to honor Treadwell, James Solomon Jr., and the late Robert Anderson.

The statue, sculpted by artist Basil Watson and stand near the McKissick Museum on the Horseshoe, will mirror a photograph of the three as they walked out of the Osborne Administration Building six decades ago to become students.

"This monument to Robert Anderson, Henri Monteith and James Solomon will be a daily reminder of how history can change, ... by the leadership act of a few individuals," USC President Michael Amiridis said Monday.

"And every time we walk along this brick pathways, here at the top of the Horseshoe, we will be reminded of the three young students, ... who overcame all the obstacles and chose to step forward for themselves, but also for all the other students who would follow through the doors that they opened," Amiridis added.

It was Treadwell's lawsuit that first sparked the change in enrollment for Black students.

Roughly a year earlier, Treadwell applied and was rejected by USC.

With help from her aunt and then-civil rights attorney Matthew Perry, Treadwell sued the school and won in a class-action suit, according to the university. Treadwell submitted a new application Aug. 13, 1963. Less than two weeks later, her uncle's home was bombed.

On Sept. 11, 1963, Anderson, Solomon and Treadwell enrolled at USC.

It was nine years after the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

The "days of silence and marginalization" are over, Treadwell said.

"I think that when we disturb the earth by establishing the monument, it is (similar) to disturbing the system that occurred 60 years ago, a system that will never be the same," said Treadwell, who was the university's first Black graduate since Reconstruction.

Treadwell was joined Monday by Anderson's family and Solomon and his family.

In addition to the statue, the university on Monday unveiled a new plaque in LeConte College to honor Solomon, the math department's first Black student since Reconstruction.

"My father said that in life you don't seek to do great things, you seek to do right things, and then others decide if they are great," Solomon's son, Carl, said Monday. "... Our state has a rich and complicated history. This is one piece that shows us not only what we learn from the past but all of the great things we can do in the future."

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is a news reporter with South Carolina Public Radio and ETV. She worked at South Carolina newspapers for a decade, previously working as a reporter and then editor of The State’s S.C. State House and politics team, and as a reporter at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013.