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Milestones and Achievements


The state NAACP president, James M. Hinton, threatened to sue Winthrop and other public colleges over the schools’ prohibitions on race mixing. He also announced the NAACP’s intent to enroll an African American student. Cynthia P. Comer applied as a graduate student but was encouraged by Winthrop President Henry Sims to apply to South Carolina’s historically black college in Orangeburg. “Sims justified his action on the grounds that the statute creating Winthrop specifically stated that the college was for ‘the practical training and higher education of white girls.’” Ross Webb, The Torch Is Passed: A History of Winthrop University, p. 157


Winthrop received an inquiry from the New York Times about the admission of African Americans. State law was again the reason given by the president for the denial of admission.


On May 14, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional: "We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal...." Read more about Brown v. Board of Education.


South Carolina appealed to the Supreme Court to delay integration and was rejected. The legislature told Winthrop and State College in Orangeburg to shut down if federally ordered to admit blacks and whites, respectively.


In February, 19 African American students from Friendship College in Rock Hill picketed Winthrop for being denied admission. They were arrested, and 13 of the 19 were sentenced to 30 days at the York County Prison Farm. In May, two female Friendship College students applied for admission, but no action was taken on their applications.


During the spring, three applications for admission were received from African American women, but they were deemed incomplete, so the applicants were not admitted. In October of that year, Winthrop’s board chair, John G. Dinkins, said that it was “not the function of this board to take steps to remove the clause in the charter establishing Winthrop for white girls,” as the State Legislature had to take that action. Ross Webb, The Torch Is Passed: A History of Winthrop University, p. 184


In April, President Charles Davis informed the trustees that the administration had received three applications from African American women. Two of the applications from Rock Hill students were considered incomplete, but the Columbia applicant – Delores Johnson – not only met Winthrop’s entrance requirements but had test scores well-above Winthrop’s average.

“After consulting with chairman John Dinkins, Attorney General Daniel McLeod, and Governor Donald Russell, as special meeting of the Board was called in May. Davis told the trustees that it would be advantageous if the students were admitted without a formal court order … the Board voted unanimously to admit the applicants….” Ross Webb, The Torch Is Passed: A History of Winthrop University, p. 185

In July graduate student Cynthia Plair Roddey registered and began classes.

That fall, two of the three undergraduate applicants who had been admitted were enrolled for classes. The pair -- Delores Johnson of Columbia and Arnetta Gladden of Rock Hill -- moved onto campus in Roddey Hall.


In the spring term, Johnson and Gladden were followed to campus by Sue Frances Meriwether, a transfer student from Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State University, now Tennessee State University.


In the 1966-67 academic year, 27 full- and part-time African American students were enrolled at Winthrop.


Sue Frances Meriwether became the first African American student to receive a degree from Winthrop.


The African American students on campus began calling themselves, “The Ebonites.”


The Ebonites sought recognition and were approved by the Student Government Association as a student group. The students endeavored to promote greater awareness of black culture. Among the concerns voiced by the group in the late ‘60s were lack of African American faculty and the need for a black history course.


Dacus Library added two African American staff members who were tapped to help the African American students on campus succeed. They were Dorothy Barber and Ellen Owens, both of whom are still working at Winthrop.


Dr. Annabelle Boykin was hired as Winthrop’s first African American faculty member.


The first historically African American Greek organization received a charter at Winthrop with establishment of the Theta Theta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.


Three more Greek organizations joined the campus community – the Xi Beta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Psi Kappa chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., and the Mu Xi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Other Greek groups followed.


The Honorable Dr. Hudson L. Barksdale, Sr., was named Winthrop’s first African American member of the Board of Trustees in January 1981. He was appointed by the Education and Public Works Committee of the S.C. House of Representatives.


Sheila McMillan, Esq., became a member of the Board of Trustees. She was the first African American alumna of Winthrop to serve.


Dr. Dorothy Perry Thompson was hired to teach courses in African American literature, American literature, poetry, and creative writing.


The Roddey-McMillan Record, a monthly student newspaper that promotes awareness and understanding of issues concerning minorities for the betterment of the entire Winthrop community, printed its first edition in April 1986. The newspaper's masthead honors Cynthia Plair Roddey '67, Winthrop's first African American graduate student, and Sheila McMillan '73, Winthrop's first African American alumni trustee.

Jill Powell was hired as the first Assistant Director of Student Development to coordinate programs and activities for minority students and minority student organizations.


The African American Studies minor program was proposed by Dr. Thompson.


The African American Studies minor program was established.


Winthrop University was singled out in an Education Trust report, “Big Gaps, Small Gaps: Some Colleges and Universities Do Better Than Others in Graduating African-American Students” as a national leader in consistently showing high rates of graduation success among minority populations. Winthrop University led all public master’s level universities nationally by graduating African American students at higher rates than whites.

Additional Integration History

For a narrative of the early years of integration, see The Torch Is Passed: A History of Winthrop University by Ross A. Webb.

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