Topic: Some comments on "The Education of Harvey Gantt"...(long)
Replies: 9   Last Post: Feb 10, 2014 7:22 PM by: lightbulbbill®
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Some comments on "The Education of Harvey Gantt"...(long)

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 1:14 PM

Hope everyone's had an opportunity to watch the documentary on SCETV about Charleston native Harvey Gantt and the integration of Clemson. I feel sort of able to offer a perspective underplayed in the documenatary since I watched much of it as a kid sitting on the Clemson House hill.

First, let me say that I enjoyed the film and, while nothing really earth shattering was presented as new info, it did a creditable job painting a political image of the South (and much of the rest of the nation) as the civil rights movement gained momentum and success... and detailing the events in SC leading up to that historic January afternoon.

The Clemson area was no bastion of liberalism. But, to the best of my knowledge, no chapter of the Klan existed in our little world. Having said that, the immediate Clemson area was populated with more educated folks per capita than in most of the Upstate and the conservatism still pervasive in the area was tempered by a much wider view of the plight of humanity and the unfairness of much of society's norms towards minorities. We had grown up, after all, with great respect for Herman and Lucia McGee and "Uncle" Bill Greenlee all of whom were visible parts of the fabric of the community. And it was also true, the black community was segmented into one small area of the town.

But don't misunderstand....racism and ignorance existed and would occasionally rear its ugly countenance. As vital to town as the university was, Defore Mill and Utica Mohawk, etc, were large employers filled with proud "lintheads" who lived in a society largely separate from the "university folk" and with their own values.

As well as "The Education of Harvey Gantt" played up the riots and protests at the Univerity's of Alabama and Mississippi and Georgia, there was really none of that nonsense evident in the Clemson area in the days leading up to Gantt's matriculation. And this is the one area the film disappointed me--by failing to mention how quiet and calm the townspeople (and students) remained.

On the historic day of Gantt's arrival, there were hundreds of print and tv reporters AND State Troopers parked all over Bowman and all the streets leading up to Tillman. A large crowd had gathered and deftly examined each vehicle which came and went through the area. And at what seemed to be a mysteriously given signal, they all climbed back into their vehicles and drove away leaving Clemson the sleepy little college town it remains today.

Nothing happened. Zip. Nada. There were no groups of protesting students or "civilians". No lines of policemen with batons out. No politicians foaming at the mouth. Everyone came and went and attended to their own business. The "integration" of Clemson was truly a "non-event". And it disappeared from the headlines nearly as quickly as it had occurred--though the nightly news remained full of problems at universities in other parts of the South.

Local townspeople saw Mr. Gantt from time to time during his time as a student and from what I could tell, he was generally treated much the same as any other student. Once, he even accompanied a group of other architecture students on a visit to our school. Again, he was noticeable in the crowd of otherwise white students, but just as the community had done, it seemed no big deal and his visit to the school house was treated by smiles of acknowledgement from both teachers and kids.

I'm sure Mr. Gantt got a little lonely from time to time, but I'll bet even he was surprised at the lack of hostility--something his parents were probably extremely glad of...Anyhow, I think probably every Clemson alum was proud when Mr. Gantt was elected mayor of Charlotte years later.... and then went on their merry way talking about the football team's prospects for the season.

Just my perspective

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Re: Some comments on "The Education of Harvey Gantt"...(long)

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 1:19 PM

IN the 70's or maybe early 80's I tend to recall some cross burnings in some rural parts of SC. Around anderson and maybe Greenwood.

Seems like one night we were on a secondary road somewhere over there and saw one. So I suspect there may have been a little more going on than many of us imagined in our youth.

The recap was good. I dont know Mr or Mrs Gantt personally but they have always seemed like very nice and pleasant people.


I remember years and years ago, going to a Clemson/USC game

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 3:06 PM

that there was a Klan rally in downtown Central the morning of the game. Does anybody remember this? To be quite honest, growing up in Rock Hill, I can say that I can only even think of a time or two where the Klan had any mention. Maybe I was a bit sheltered, I do not know

From Your Vantage Point at the Clemson House

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 2:09 PM

you couldn't get the whole picture. I was standing at the left curb in front of Tillman Hall, about even with the statue. On balance, it was a non-event, with little in the way of a scene, but there were a couple of guys who thought it would be cute to throw rocks at Harvey Gantt and they did. Fortunately, only a few were thrown and those all missed the mark. After that brief display, there were no other incidents that I saw.

So, just to correct the record: Overall, it was a peaceful transition, but I would not say it was totally without incident.

I got my hair cut by a guy once

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 2:24 PM

who, when he saw my ring, said he was a student when Gantt was admitted. He said he and several other cadets would take shifts standing in the room above Gantt's (in Johnstone, I believe) and bouncing a golf ball off the floor, 24 hours a day. He didn't mention how many days they did it. He didn't relay the story with any sense of pleasure or pride, but neither did he express any remorse for it. It was more like a fond memory. It bothered me enough that I didn't go back.

I relate this not to say Gantt's entry into Clemson wasn't remarkable, because it was--and we should be proud of the way the school integrated. But there were also some things that happened behind the scenes and never got reported.

Re: Some comments on "The Education of Harvey Gantt"...(long)

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 3:09 PM

I have not had the opportunity to see the documentary, but I just wanted to thank all of you for your honest perspectives. As a student at Clemson from 85 until 90, I can vouch for the general lack of hostility towards students of negro descent... I use negro because it is the correct anthropological description. For purposes of conversation, I will describe myself as black so as not to get into unnecessary discussions about racial designations.
I chose to attend Clemson because of the general feeling of welcome that I felt there even as a middle school student on a field trip. To later learn that Clemson was the first of the flagship state schools to admit black students was gratifying and that fact furthered my affinity for Clemson. My time on campus was truly some of the best years of my life. My time there was not completely free of racial incidents, but there are pockets of ignorance in every corner of society. But I would not chose any other university ever for my education and I am encouraging my children to make Clemson their choice as well.
Dear old Clemson, I will forever be fond of thee...

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Re: Some comments on "The Education of Harvey Gantt"...(long)

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 3:17 PM

It happened before my time there but I was always proud it happened without incident. My class did have the first black scholarship football player and so far as I know he never had any issues there. I had a couple classes with him and knew him a bit. I remember telling him when he got a pick off Pat Sullivan at Auburn that he had intercepted a heisman winner. he was very modest about that but it turned out to be true. As I recall he played several years in the NFL.

Anyway I'm glad to hear you enjoyed your time at CU and things wnet well. I think it is a special place and I enjoy hearing others confirm that here.


Re: Some comments on "The Education of Harvey Gantt"...(long)

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 3:19 PM

I also was there as one of the students who welcomed Mr.
Gantt to Clemson. Years later I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him one sunday afternoon and he like myself has fond memories of his days at Clemson.

My dad was at Clemson when Gantt enrolled and

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 5:01 PM

he did not paint a rosy picture of his experience. He felt sorry for him and thought he had a tough time. I remember going to school in Clemson in the late 1990s and seeing KKK flyers in Seneca. I also remember white students throwing around racial slurs Not the most backward, but not the most enlightened place either when I was there. However there were also really nice people I met there that I tended to gravitate towards.

I watched Harvey come out of Tillman Hall & no problems at

Posted: Feb 10, 2014 7:22 PM

all..and always wanted to OR thought I'd meet him before now..never did. The little circle around the Thomas G Clemson statute in front of Tillman Hall is called "Gantt Circle" I've just learned recently.

And, I heard back when he was a student he was given the regular treatment of having a trash can full of water leaned/placed against his door..then a knock (and the culprits ran & hid)..and when he opened the door his room was flooded. I had this done to me in 1959 in old Johnstone.


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To All CLEMSON TiGERS..Sending you Bright Light from the Carolina Coast and hoping you get to witness a huge Orange sunset tonight. Go Tigers!

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