New Historical Markers at Clemson University Relate the Good and the Bad

Clemson University in South Carolina has installed new signs at 11 buildings on campus explaining the historical significance of the buildings and also providing information on the people for who the buildings are named. The historical markers were approved after a task force called on the university to tell the university’s history in a way that is “forthcoming, accurate, and beneficial to the Clemson family.

Some of the building on campus were named for historical figures who were supporters of White supremacy but played a significant role in the history of the university. Among them are “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman was born in 1847. Tillman served two terms as governor of South Carolina and in 1895 became a U.S. senator. An opponent of education for African Americans, Tillman once said: “When you educate a Negro, you educate a candidate for the penitentiary or spoil a good field hand.” After student protests in 2015, the university decided not to change the name of Tillman Hall on campus.

In addition to the new historical signs, the university has installed new granite markers on the circular drive outside of Tillman Hall that is now called Gantt Circle. In 1963, Harvey B. Gantt was the first African American to enroll at Clemson University. He went on to become mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.


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