A relative of Robert G. Anderson stands with Henrie Monteith Treadwell behind a set of shovels Monday. The University of South Carolina observed the 60th anniversary of its desegregation by breaking ground on a site that will be home to a bronze statue of Anderson, Treadwell and James L. Soloman Jr., the first Black students to attend USC since Reconstruction. (Photos by Sydney Dunlap/Carolina News and Reporter)

USC leaders broke ground for a monument Monday honoring the 60th anniversary of the university’s desegregation. 

The 12-foot bronze statue will portray Henrie Monteith Treadwell, Robert G. Anderson and James L. Solomon Jr. walking into a building on the Horseshoe to register for classes on Sept. 11, 1963. They became the first Black students to attend the University of South Carolina since Reconstruction, a period of increased opportunities for Black students just after the Civil War. 

Anderson passed away in 2009, but Solomon and Treadwell both attended the ceremony. 

“It feels wonderful to know that we have come to a point where we are definitely and definitively acknowledging what happened 60 years ago, with the development of a monument,” Treadwell said. “I think it’s important to mark times in history.” 

The monument is to be erected in early 2024 in front of McKissick Museum, near the Osborne Administration Building, where the students registered in 1963 and the school’s administrators now have their offices.

The well-traveled location, President Michael Amiridis said, will help everyone regularly remember those who desegregated the university.

“Each time we revisit the facts and details of this day, we have a new opportunity to understand better who we are as well as who we should aspire to be,” Amiridis said. “We erect markers and monuments, this monument, not only to remind us of what is past but also to instruct us on the path to a more enlightened future.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Thad Westbrook said the monument sculptor Basil Watson could begin creating the statue as early as next week. 

He said the monument was a priority for the board and meant to inspire the thousands of students and visitors who pass it. 

“We must reckon with the past and celebrate the heroism of trailblazers if USC is to fulfill its potential today and in the future,” Westbrook said. 

Anderson, Solomon and Treadwell registered for classes at USC three years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling and following years of racial unrest in the South. South Carolina was one of the last states to desegregate its universities. 

Treadwell said that despite facing isolation and marginalization, she was unafraid when attending USC and hopes future generations will be willing to fight for their goals and ambitions.

“I want students to recognize that if they see things that are wrong in our communities, they are compelled to act,” Treadwell said. “We can’t simply say, ‘Oh, that’s too bad.'”

The university immediately afterward unveiled a plaque in LeConte College, home of its math department, honoring Solomon. Solomon attended USC as a graduate math student and was the first Black student in the department since Reconstruction.

Carl Solomon, the son of James L. Solomon Jr., said his father often downplayed the difficulties associated with attending USC and, while commending Treadwell, often didn’t consider himself a hero.

“My father said that in life, you don’t seek to do great things, you seek to do right, and then others decide if they are great,” Carl Solomon said. “He believed that what he was doing was not only helping others, like myself and my brother, come to this great university, but it was also building the bridge.” 

J. Rex Tolliver, USC’s vice president for student affairs and academic support, said the efforts by Treadwell, Anderson and the elder Solomon paved the way for students and faculty such as himself. 

“I know that my ability to stand here would not have been possible without the willingness, the courage, the conviction, the confidence of three students to stand just to the right over at Osborne 60 years ago,” Tolliver said. “So their history has now become my history.”

Treadwell said she hopes the monument will continue to inspire a new generation of leaders. 

“We’ve only just begun,” Treadwell said. “More is needed. More will happen. The monument is a catalyst.”

A family member of Anderson, Treadwell, Solomon and Solomon’s family members use a shovel at USC’s groundbreaking event in front of McKissick Museum.

A woman looks at historical pictures of Treadwell, Anderson and Solomon, the first Black students to attend USC after Reconstruction.

Solomon shakes hands while attending a ceremony in his honor. Solomon was the first Black student in the department of mathematics since Reconstruction.

Women pose in front of a plaque honoring Solomon after attending an unveiling ceremony Monday.