Sunday, April 12, 2009

Clemson University and a 1963 Flashback


Tonight is our Clemson University screening of All About Us.  This university has always been on my radar for one reason or another for various reasons.  I know the first Black student to be admitted to Clemson University in 1963 (sadly, South Carolina was the last state to hold out to racial integration).  As I walked around the Clemson campus I tried to imagine what it could have possibly been like for him all those years ago as the first and only Black student on this campus.

That student, who went on to earn an architecture degree with Honors from Clemson, was Harvey Bernard Gantt.  Years later Harvey Gantt also became the first Black mayor of Charlotte, NC and had two very close U.S. Senate bids against the North Carolina incumbent Senator, Jesse Helms.  Today, Mr. Gantt is still one of the most successful architects in Charlotte, we attend the same church and he enjoyed All About Us at our red-carpet premiere in Charlotte.  So now here I am on his old stomping ground.  I believe there's a building named after him somewhere on campus.

The auditorium was packed with students!  By far the largest audience I have had on the tour.  The screening went very well and the students were enthusiastic and asked thoughtful questions.  I am an adjunct professor at Johnson C. Smith University this semester and I found myself right at home as if I were giving one of my informative and exciting college lectures to my own students.  

My visit to Clemson University was not bad.  Thank you for paving the way Harvey Gantt.  -Michael Swanson