The university will honor the first three Black students to attend USC during the Civil Rights Era with a monument on campus, the board of trustees voted at its Feb. 18 meeting.
Robert G. Anderson, Henrie Monteith Treadwell and James L. Solomon Jr., the first Black students to attend USC since the Reconstruction Era, will be honored with a statue commemorating their registration at the university in Sept. 1963, according to a statement released by the university.
“It serves us well to remember the struggle that preceded that historic day that these statues will, these sculpture will commemorate. We were all made better at that moment. But that will only remain true if we continue the journey, the journey of ensuring the equality, freedoms and justice that every member of our community deserves,” Interim university President Harris Pastides said.
Treadwell attended the meeting with her son, along with Ashlynn and Amber Solomon, the granddaughters of Solomon Jr. Pastides said that Solomon Jr. was unable to attend. Anderson passed away in 2009 and was honored with a moment of silence at the meeting.
Pastides presented the honorees with picture frames made of wood from an oak tree that stood on the Horseshoe when the three students attended the university.
“We hope someday they will, for you contain the pictures of the statues that we will plan to erect,” Pastides said.
Treadwell said she couldn’t remember what she was thinking when she helped desegregate the university nearly 60 years ago.
“I think I just knew that I had to take that walk, as it turns out, a walk into history. And I'm delighted that you have recognized me and honored the work that I have done. And I look forward to being back with you to unveil and to enjoy the final product,” Treadwell said.
Treadwell was the first Black graduate of the University of South Carolina since 1877, and the first African American female graduate in the institution's history, according to Pastides. She graduated with a degree in biochemistry and later worked studying the health of underrepresented communities, according to the university's statement.
Solomon Jr. was a graduate student studying mathematics when he transferred to USC in 1963. After graduating, he went on to a career in accounting and state government, according to Derek Gruner, Campus Architect and Director of Planning and Programming.
Anderson transferred to USC in 1963 and was a Vietnam veteran, according to the university’s statement. He had a long career in social work, helping veterans, women, children and individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.
“Certainly the university would have been desegregated at some moment were it not for our heroes here, but who knows when? How long would it have taken? Who would have come after them?” Pastides said.
Gruner said a nationwide search would be conducted for the sculptor to create the statues, with an emphasis on seeking out African American sculptors.
Gruner also said more research needed to be done to determine the statue’s location, posture and inscription. He said the statue would be reflective of the students’ experiences on campus. Gruner said he expected the research period to take around 18 months.
“It takes a great deal of time to develop something like this that's going to endure on the campus into the next century and beyond,” Gruner said.
Work will be done to look for other opportunities to honor the three students across campus, possibly with plaques, according to Gruner.
Gruner said the estimated cost of the statue — based on other similar statues commissioned by the university — is between $600,000 and $700,000.
The statues are scheduled to be unveiled in fall 2023, according to the press release.