Eat With Us, the First 3 Black Female Students at Harcombe Dining Hall

The first three Black Women to graduate from Clemson University in 1969: Dorothy Ashford, Delores Kimes-Barton, and Lavern Williams-White make memories in the dining hall.

As told by Dorothy and Delores themselves when they returning back to Clemson to speak at the “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, and Female” event on campus, they recalled one of their most clear memories of college to be their first day walking into the dining hall. They remember walking in and receiving their food, but once it came to finding somewhere to sit, they were overwhelmed with a sea of white men with no available seats. So on that day in 1965, together, they walked out.

After graduating at the top of their high school class in Columbia, SC, Dorothy Ashford and Delores Kimes Barton would be among the first Black women to attend and graduate from Clemson University. Together, as roommates and friends, they would spend time involved in the many of the same extracurricular activities at Clemson. Both joined Angel Flight, a club for young women which exposed them to the military structure and lifestyle, aimed at preparing them for the military (which neither of them joined). They were also involved in the Women’s Student Association and enjoyed the camaraderie from their shared gender experiences. Dorothy Ashford would go on to also become a Resident Assistant in the girls dorm at Clemson House for two years where she would enforce the female dress code and serve as the “house mother” for her residents.

Each recounted their good times at Clemson with smiles on their faces, and solemn ones when mentioning the “different kind of isolation” they felt as the first Black females at the school. Delores Kimes Barton (with Dorothy Ashford in agreeance) described her first year at Clemson with one word: Naive. It was not until later had she picked up on the nuances of their racial experience at Clemson. They recall even standing for the National Anthem, Alma Mater, and Dixie during their first year at the football games, but eventually would find themselves sitting down during the latter. Interestingly, even as intersectional minorities at Clemson for their race and gender, they felt their experience more strongly aligned with being in the gender minority than the racial minority.

Today, both of these women enjoy their retirement and in their free time serve as distinguished Alumni. Unfortunately, not much is documented about the experiences of Laverne Williams White while she was a student at Clemson. However we do know that alongside Dorothy Ashford and Delores Kimes Barton she graduated in 1969 with her bachelors then in 1973 received her Master’s in Education. Laverne William White fulfilled her passion for children into her career as a teacher and guidance counselor at Daniel High School for over 36 years. She was a pillar in the Clemson Community, as a life-long volunteer at the Littlejohn Community Center and Helping Hands Children’s Home.



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