Efforts to Address the History of Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination has existed at Clemson University since before its founding when the Calhouns enslaved people of African descent. Throughout history Clemson has struggled with racial equality, but in recent years students and faculty on campus have been teaming up to make a difference.

In the past the Calhoun/Clemson family knew their home as the Fort Hill Plantation that is now a monument in the middle of Clemson’s campus. Fort Hill was originally built by John C. Calhoun and was passed down to his daughter Anna Calhoun who married Thomas Green Clemson, and they kept the slaves associated with the house as wage hands. Clemson was later built by convicted laborers, who consisted of people of color.

While the history of Clemson dating back to the late 1800’s consisted of plantations, slaves, unpaid workers, and poor living conditions for people of color, there are now numerous organizations on campus that draw attention to minorities. One of the most important is the Council on Diversity Affairs. They help to make Clemson’s campus equal for everyone including; handicapped, the Latino community, LGBTQ+, the Black community, women, and veterans. They have a very simple, yet powerful mission to unite the campus programs and education to create a more unified, and welcoming university.

During this past year some of the councils on our campus have had events such as the “Closing the Opportunity Gap for African-American and Hispanic Males” and Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Month in October. Also in 2020, the Clemson football team led other Clemson students in a march for equality in retaliation for police brutality. These are a few of many of the events that have taken place in an effort to close the racial gap.

But how has diversity and racial inclusion on campus changed over the years? According to an article by Greenville New, Clemson attendees numbers have increased from 17.1% non-white students in 2009, to 18.6% non-white students in recent years. According to PNPI in February of 2022, on average African Americans make up 12% of four year public institutions. While Clemson is ahead of the average numbers, they still feel they are falling behind in minority students, but have a hope to get up to 25% non-white students on campus by 2026. They have created a strategic plan that follows the acronym R.E.A.L., meaning Research, Engagement, the Academic core, and Living. Their plan is to boost the university as a whole, including increasing minorities on campus.

Organizations on Clemson’s campus have been pushing for a more just and equal future. The work shows for itself in the rise of minority students, minority organizations, and events to help bring everyone together. The progression of equality from the late 1800’s until now is unbelievable, and one day the future students of Clemson will look back onto this time and study the history of how our campus grew as one equal unit.