Clemson Discovers Graves of Dozens of People Enslaved by John C. CalhounHistorians in the News
tags: slavery, memorials, John C. Calhoun, South Carolina, colleges and universities
Temporary pink and white flags now dot the western hill of Clemson University’s Woodland Cemetery, marking where researchers have recently discovered that the bodies of hundreds of Black slaves and indentured convicts are among the polished granite headstones of the privileged buried in the shadow of John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill plantation.
The announcement Monday comes just as a team of university researchers was already making progress in honoring the graves of the people who essentially built the university from the Antebellum era into its founding with a land grant from Thomas Green Clemson in 1889.
The researchers discovered more than they bargained for when they found the scope of unmarked graves extends beyond a known area on the south end of Calhoun’s plantation.
The graves were found using ground-penetrating radar technology to scan the western slope, guided in part by “field stones” placed inconsistently more than a century ago to mark where bodies were buried. The presence of stones can mean a grave exists or the stone has been displaced by erosion.
The scan found 215 instances of disturbed ground about five feet below that would indicate grave sites, including 160 on the 2-acre western slope, said Paul Anderson, the university historian leading the research effort.
Calhoun, a preeminent South Carolina statesman and former U.S. vice president, extolled slavery as a “positive good.”
The university renamed the Calhoun Honors College to Clemson University Honors College in early June. Later that month, the statue of Calhoun that towered over Marion Square in downtown Charleston was removed.
Long-simmering pressure continues to rename Clemson’s iconic Tillman Hall, named after avowed white supremacist and former state governor Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman.
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