Outside Media Response

How the outside print-media responded to the news of the SLBI walk-out in South Carolina and out.

On October 27th, 1969 at 10 A.M., Student League for Black Identity (SLBI) President Joseph Grant released to the news media the same letter which he had directed to President Robert C. Edwards regarding the campus walk-out. According to SLBI faculty advisor Dr. William F. Steirer, distributing the letter to the press served as a warning to the African American public of the dangerous situation on Clemson University’s campus.

With larger media outlets outside the South, the SLBI walk-out received straightforward attention without opinionated commentary. United Press International, the agency to first break the news on October 27th, reported 60 African American Clemson students had fled the campus out of fear of white retaliation for their protests of Tigerama and Confederate symbolism. The report then shifts to actions by Pres. Edwards and his administration, stating the university deemed the students’ claims unfounded, directed their return to campus, and reaffirmed their support for non-violent demonstrations. The UPI piece closes with Edwards’ statement claiming the Confederate symbolism conflict was an issue to be handled by the student body. (United Press International). Other columns by The Washington Post and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in the days following made similar statements. (Clemson Special Collections).

Within South Carolina news media, the SLBI walk-out faced considerable ridicule. The Greenville News featured a column by Henry B. McKay arguing if similar outcry towards businesses with "Southern" or "Dixie" in their title occurred in the Greenville-area, it would cripple the regional economy. The piece continues by placing blame on McKay’s generation for not educating the youth on the history of the South and its suffering under Reconstruction. On November 18th, the Charleston-based News and Courier published a column titled "Regional Symbols" in which the paper argues "the majority of students decided they wouldn’t be shoved around by a campus clique determined to eradicate symbols of 'Southern heritage'" and "the flag expresses the spirit of regionalism, or home turf." (News and Courier, 1969). The most critical of the protests, the Anderson Uncensored, attacked African American students for being the instigators for "seeking special considerations and constantly complaining. The paper concluded with an attack on The Tiger for being biased towards African American students. (Anderson Uncensored, 1969).

(Image: https://www.clemson.edu/administration/bot/clemson-history-taskforce/)