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USC Remembers 50th Anniversary of School's Desegregation

7:53 PM, Sep 11, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The University of South Carolina paused to step back in time today.

Fifty years ago the first African-American students to enroll at the university since reconstruction stepped onto campus paving the way and changing history.

"On that day in time, South Carolina decided that they were going to be different," said Henrie Monteith Treadwell.

She desegregated the USC along with James Solomon and Robert Anderson when they enrolled as the first African-Americans since reconstruction.

Anderson passed away in 2009, and Solomon carried Anderson's hat to keep him with them as they celebrated their historic steps.

Monteith Treadwell and Solomon returned to remember and reflect on what their actions meant to the community.

"A dream that's come true, and that you can really see and feel. And it's difficult to even talk about it now without kinda tearing up because you couldn't imagine it, I was 16. I didn't know. I didn't know what it could be," said Monteith Treadwell.

The experience was a bit different for Solomon, who had served in a segregated Air Force and enrolled as a graduate student at age 33.

"Coming here was a piece of cake, I mean I'd been through it. It didn't worry me, but I was proud of Robert and Henrie because they had not, and they were braver than I was," he said.

The day was an emotional one for Monteith Treadwell, but when asked about one thing she remembers from her time as a USC student, it is the kindness she was shown by others.

"Other students who would say hello, or who would say let's walk to class together, who I don't know now, don't know their names, but who were willing to help move history forward. Those were the days that I remember, the people I remember. Those moments when it really didn't matter that I was black or African-American, but I was just a student, and another person," she recalled.

The school is planning a garden to honor the three. Monteith Treadwell and Solomon broke ground on the space with a shovel unmoved for Anderson.

Now, as others remember how far the university has come, for Solomon the day is also about where to go in the future.

"There's a little guy walking around here in a bow tie and a seersucker suit. That is my grandson. That's what it means to me, because I want him to be proud of his grandpa. And I want him to know that he has a responsibility and that we haven't gotten there yet," he said.

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