Article on the return of Dr.

“First Black USC Graduate Returns To Campus”

The State, April 25, 1981
Modjeska Simpkins Papers, 1909-1992
University of South Carolina, South Carolina Political Collections

50th Anniversary of Desegregation of the University of South Carolina

Long Integration


Although African-American men attended the University of South Carolina briefly during Reconstruction (1863-1877), non-white students were otherwise not allowed until the middle of the twentieth century. In 1952, “Lily” Wen-pei Li from Taiwan became the first Asian woman to attend UofSC. She took graduate courses in English, wishing to then return home to teach. By 1955, many students from China were admitted to graduate programs. Ten years later, the Chinese Student Club sponsored a series of stories in The Gamecock to better other students’ understanding of Asian culture. 

In September 1963, following a class-action lawsuit over the University’s rejection of applicants due to race, three African Americans enrolled, the first to do so since the 1870s. They included Robert G. Anderson, James L. Solomon, and Columbia native Henrie Monteith, who came from a family of civil rights activists. “My mother and Aunt Modjeska [Simpkins] instilled in me an understanding that something needed to be done.” Therefore, joining the fight to desegregate the institution “was a natural decision. In a sense, I was raised for that moment. It was my turn.” 

With a similarly determined spirit, many other students worked to diversify UofSC over the following decades. Presently, the undergraduate population is 1.5% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 10.2% African American, and 54% female. More work still has to be done, and students continue to lead the charge. On June 19, 2020, or Juneteenth, a proposal titled Revision 2020 was presented to the University administration requesting that the leadership and Board of Trustees take a definitive stance to right the inequities facing marginalized students.

Bombing in protest of University of S. C. integration–outtakes, 1963

WIS-TV News Story 63-379
Copyright University of South Carolina. All rights reserved.

Scenes from after a bombing at the Monteith home. Dr. Monteith speaks with  a reporter outside of his home, with shots of a small crater in the yard.

Monteith heard an explosion the previous night, but says he did not know the cause until officers found the crater. Feels the bomber thought he was the father of Henrie Monteith, one of three students who would desegregate the University of South Carolina that fall.


Monteith on University of South Carolina desegregation–outtakes, 1963

WIS-TV News Story 63-1501
Copyright University of South Carolina. All rights reserved.

Henrie Monteith is interviewed on the front porch of her home about her admission to the University of South Carolina. Monteith was one of three students to desegregate the university in 1963. When asked if she believes  her admission will be a source of trouble on campus, she replies, “I hope not.”


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