“It’s been a long time, a long time comin’, but I know a change gonna come …” Those powerful lyrics by Sam Cooke, from his 1964 soulful ballad “Change is Gonna Come,” encapsulate the difficult, complex history of integration at the College of Charleston.
Kicking off Black History Month, the College’s Office of Institutional Diversity on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, will take a closer look at the history of access, equity and inclusivity for people of color at CofC by way of an event titled “History Makers & Trailblazers.” With sponsorship from PNC Bank, this gathering, which is also part of the College’s celebration of its 250th anniversary, will include discussions on where the campus community is headed as the College moves into the next 250 years.
“It’s important that this event gives us the opportunity to hear stories about the footprints left by trailblazers that span over 100 years of the College’s history,” says Rénard Harris, associate vice president and chief diversity officer for the institution. “There’s much we can learn from those trailblazers as we celebrate the 250th and create transformative paths for the future. Ideally, their stories will inspire each of us to ask ourselves, ‘how can I be a trailblazer?’”
The event will kick off with opening remarks from Demetria Noisette Clemons ’75, a longtime member of the College’s Board of Trustees. Panel discussions will begin with a session titled “1770-1954: Laying the Foundation for Change,” with Herb Fraizer, a former journalist and public relations director for Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, moderating. He’ll talk with local opinion writer Brian Hicks about his book In Darkest South Carolina, which covers the life and times of alumnus Julius Waites Waring ‘1900, an esteemed judge and a trailblazing figure in the realm of civil rights in Charleston.
“1954-1971: Breaking the Color Barrier,” a session moderated by Professor Emeritus Bernard Powers, will follow. Powers, who taught history at the College and currently serves as director of CofC’s Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston, will be joined by former Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and former South Carolina state Rep. Lucille Whipper. This trio will discuss the dynamic struggle to integrate the College.
Both Whipper and Riley played pivotal roles in the College’s journey toward integration. Riley, the city’s longtime mayor, was an equal rights champion throughout his mayoral career and Whipper was the College’s first African American administrator. Among other contributions, she developed CofC’s first affirmative action plan and played a key role in establishing the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.
“Mrs. Whipper’s legacy is still unfolding,” Harris explains, “and she continues to be highly engaged as a warrior for change. We know that attempting to bring about transformation can be taxing, but the deeds of Lucille Whipper inspire each of us to challenge the status quo in thoughtful and meaningful ways with the goal of making true impact.”
For the final session – “1971-Present: Charting a New Course” – Harris will share the stage with College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu. News Channel 2 television anchor Octavia Mitchell will moderate their discussion regarding CofC’s plans to advance access, equity and inclusivity.
The afternoon will wrap up with a reception featuring other history makers and trailblazers from the College including Tony Meyer ’49, Tippy Stern Brickman (the daughter of former CofC president Ted Stern) and Elizabeth Ganaway (widow of Eddie Ganaway ‘71, the College’s first African American graduate).
“History Makers & Trailblazers” will take place at Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center, room 103, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The event is free, but attendees must register for tickets through eventbrite.