“Here’s a lynching rope for you, Harvey,” shouted one student as Harvey Gantt, the first African American student enrolled at Clemson University, was returning to his dorm room. This was a quote recorded in the Jan. 29, 1963 issue of the Charleston News and Courier newspaper.
58 years later, his legacy lives on at Clemson. Gantt, who graduated with a bachelor’s in architecture and served as a two-term mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, is paid tribute in the namesake Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center, also known as the Gantt Center. Lucinda Gantt was Clemson’s second enrolled African American student and is married to Harvey Gantt.
The Gantt Center works to foster a diverse learning environment at Clemson by hosting events such as community dialogue sessions, international festivals and programs for minority communities on campus.
This February, the Gantt Center is celebrating Black History month by hosting a variety of virtual and in-person programs. The events are rooted in two themes: education and immersion.
Every day in the month of February, Clemson professor of literature Dr. Rhondda Thomas is spotlighting one African American man or woman that has shaped Clemson University history through social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Thomas is the faculty director of Clemson’s Call My Name project, which works to raise awareness for the African Americans that took part in building Clemson’s campus.
The project has worked to uncover over 600 unmarked graves of African Americans in Woodland Cemetery and is active in helping shed light on the stories of those that helped build Clemson. A guided tour of Clemson’s Historic District as well as the Woodland Cemetery is being offered to the Clemson community on Feb. 28, 2021. Self-guided tours are open for everyone.
The Gantt Center will also virtually host Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin who was killed in a violent altercation in 2012. Fulton has advocated for the need to build safer communities for children by reducing gun violence.
Participants will also get the opportunity to immerse themselves in African American culture through food and dance.
“Soul Food Sundays” are virtual food demonstrations of southern comfort inspired entrées that will then be donated to a local homeless organization. The “Hustle and Flow” program will be hosted virtually to help participants learn popular hustle dances in African American culture.
Harvey and Lucinda Gantt made history when they enrolled at Clemson University, despite the hurdles of racism they faced at the time. The Gantt Center remains an integral part of their legacy that will impact Clemson for generations to come.