USC Names First Campus Building In Honor Of A Person Of Color | Colombia News

COLUMBIA – The University of South Carolina will name the 700 Lincoln Street student housing complex in honor of black neighborhood leader and famous educator Celia Dial Saxon, the first time the 221-year-old school has named a building in the campus after a person of color.

The name of a building for a prominent African American comes after the university pledged to honor more people of color in July 2021 following the work of a special presidential commission. The commission examined the renaming of buildings and monuments on campus named after historical figures with race-insensitive records.

The USC did not ultimately push to rename buildings. Instead, the school’s board has said it will focus on the names of any new or unnamed buildings, like the one named for Saxon near the Colonial Life Arena by administrators on January 7.

The University of South Carolina student housing complex at 700 Lincoln Street will be named after black educator and community leader Celia Dial Saxon. USC / Supplied

The Saxon Student Housing Complex is located in what was once a thriving black neighborhood known as Ward One where Saxon lived. The neighborhood gave way to campus expansion in the 1960s, including the Carolina Coliseum.

“We cannot change our history,” Interim President Harris Pastides said Jan. 7. decisions of the past. Let us now continue on the momentum established by this historic day.

Born into slavery just one block west of campus in 1857 and emancipated at the age of 6, Saxon was a reconstruction-era graduate of the former Normal School for Teachers on the USC campus. Saxon taught in Columbia schools, educating black students for 57 years, including many years at former Booker T. Washington High School.

“Her dedication in the classroom was so great that she only missed three days of work during a 57-year teaching career,” USC historians wrote in a biography of her and her. ‘other African Americans who are considered the namesakes of future unnamed school buildings.

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When Saxon died in 1935, thousands attended the screening at the Booker T. Washington High School auditorium, where his body lay in the state, according to community group Ward One Reunion.

An advocate for women and children, she helped found the Federation of Clubs for Women of Color in South Carolina, the Williams Home for Orphans in Cayce and the Fairwold Home for Delinquent Girls in Columbia, as well as the Phyllis Wheatley branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association which housed the first public library accessible to black residents, according to Historic Columbia.

The name of the student housing complex after Saxon is the result of the work of the Presidential Commission on the University’s History, a special commission established shortly after former President Bob Caslen took office at USC in 2019 “to study and better understand the history of the people whose names adorn our buildings and, more broadly, to capture the voices and contributions of forgotten, excluded or marginalized groups and individuals who have positively contributed to creation, to the maintenance and growth of our university.

But 700 Lincoln Street is not the first building in Columbia where Saxon is named after him.

In 1953, the Columbia Housing Authority opened Saxon Homes, a social housing project named in his honor. With an on-site daycare, it was built for families and former residents are remembered by Saxon Homes especially for its role in promoting family and community values, according to Historic Columbia.

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The apartments were demolished in September 2000. A new mixed-income district – the Celia Dial Saxon district – has taken its place and is home to the Celia Saxon health center, a Prisma health facility.

Ward One, which stretched between Pickens, Gervais, Heyward and Huger streets, was once home to many churches, schools, banks and black businesses.

Today it is covered by state government buildings, USC dormitories, and sports complexes.

Among these lost buildings, an elementary school was named in Saxon’s honor in 1930, where many members of the Ward One community were educated before the university claimed the land for expansion and relocated the neighborhood. in the 1960s.

The Elementary stood on the ground where the Strom Thurmond wellness and fitness center was built.

The fitness center named after the former US senator who ran for president on a segregationist platform was at the center of the debate over the renaming of USC buildings.

Mattie Johnson Roberson, president of the Ward One Reunion Organization, asked Caslen in June 2020 to rename the Strom center after Saxon.

“I encourage the University to stand firm against racism and demonstrate its commitment to equity and inclusion,” Roberson wrote in a letter.

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.

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