Changing History at Clemson: Harvey Gantt's Story

Harvey B. Gantt's Imprint at Clemson

Harvey B. Gantt was accepted into Clemson University in January of 1963, making him the first African American to enroll at the institution.

Harvey B. Gantt, born on January 14, 1943, grew up in Charleston during a time where racial segregation was still in full force. He attended National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meetings with his father as a child, and he quickly realized the importance of advocating for equality. In his high school years, he participated in civil rights activism, including a sit-in at a lunch counter during his senior year.

When Gantt first applied to Clemson, he endured many legal battles and was initially denied acceptance. After many disputes, he filled a class-action lawsuit, and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals finally granted him admission to the University, making him the first African American student at Clemson on January 28, 1963.

Following his admission, his soon-to-be wife, Lucinda Brawley enrolled at Clemson in the fall semester of the same year, making her the second African American student and first African American female to ever enroll at Clemson.

In 1965, Harvey Gantt graduated from Clemson with an honorary doctorate and a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Gantt went on to be elected as Charlotte’s first African-American mayor in 1983, remaining in office for two terms.
In 2009, the then-named Afro-American Cultural Center was revamped and renamed the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture. The Gantt Center was created to celebrate and share African American art, history, and culture.

Clemson University's Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center, part of the institution's Division of Inclusion and Equity, was created to provide a diverse learning environment for the community and to help advance cultural relativism on campus. The center also provides opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to think critically about what they can do to positively impact their communities.

Both Harvey and Lucinda Gantt faced acts of racism during their time of integration; however, their perseverance has left an impactful imprint on Clemson. Their legacy will continue to live on through the Gantt Multicultural Center and Gantt Circle at Clemson and the Gantt Center in Charlotte for generations to come.