Clemson University Pays Tribute To Its Former Enslaved Workers

A South Carolina University is trying to deal with its racist reality through accepting its slave-owning history.

Hardly had a day passed since the defacing of a black history banner at Clemson, when the leaders of the University decided to embrace its controversial past.

On Tuesday a groundbreaking ceremony will be held in the territory of the school in order to commemorate former laborers and enslaved workers; a marker will be placed near their previous residence.

A study arranged by an English professor, Rhondda Robinson Thomas, revealed that some stones, which were used for construction of the old university premises, earlier served as building material for slave quarters, which were later pulled down.

Professor Thomas herself highly appreciated the initiative. After the ceremony she shared the following opinion with The Greenville News: “You can’t put markers up and expect years of pain to disappear. But I think it’s a good faith effort to say that the university has made a commitment to embrace its full history and to tell the story differently than it has in the past so people like enslaved African Americans or sharecroppers or Native Americans are now going to have a prominent place in the narrative of the university.”

The event also coincides with the 90th birthday of Eva Hester Martin, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony as a descendant of Sharper and Caroline Brown – two slaves, who worked in this site.

“It means an awful lot that I lived long enough to see this,” she said adding that the experience was really exciting for her.

Though we can only praise such an important initiative, we should not omit the long and controversial racist history of Clemson University. Many of us remember the heated debate about renaming a building because its namesake, Benjamin Tillman, was a renowned racist and bigot.

“The clear, consistent message was that Clemson must tell its complete, though imperfect, story,” said Trustee David Wilkins, who chaired the task force established by the Board of Trustees last July. “While the work of the task force is complete, our efforts to tell the full story are just beginning.”

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