The Education of Harvey Gantt
8 p.m. Thursday, SCETV, WNSC (Channel 30)
Growing up in Charleston in the Jim Crow era, Harvey Gantt didnt think much about segregation.
Wed walk past the white school to get to ours and sit in the back of the bus. We did all those things obediently. Of course, we were young children then, Gantt recalls in a special airing Thursday on SCETV.
Then the desegregation movement swept the South. In high school, Gantt joined the NAACP Youth Council and got arrested at a lunch-counter sit-in.
He wanted to become an architect, and in those days the state of South Carolina was eager to accommodate him with state aid, a fund used to send black students to integrated, out-of-state colleges.
Gantt did a year at Iowa State University, then yearned to return to South Carolina. They dont have minus 23-degree weather in Clemson, he says.
But Clemson, the only state university in South Carolina that offered architecture courses, didnt want him. It was all white.
He applied three times and got three rejections before civil rights attorney Matthew Perry took up his case and won a court ruling that compelled Clemson to admit Gantt in 1963.
Perry helped drive him to Clemson on his first day and, with a swarm of reporters watching, let Gantt enter alone. He said, We brought you 90 yards; you have to run the last 10 yards yourself, Gantt says in the special produced by Betsy Newman and narrated by actress Phylicia Rashâd.
Through interviews, archival photos and film, The Education of Harvey Gantt leads us on a dual journey his determined quest for an education and the distinguished life he would go on to lead.
Gantts admission to Clemson was peaceful. He says he didnt make many friends at Clemson, but found support in an unexpected quarter.
In the dining halls, the serving staff was all African-American. Gantt was a star to them.
He always got the biggest helpings, the best cut of meat. Reflecting on it five decades later, Gantt says, he realizes they were looking upon him as the symbol of what their own children would now be able to achieve.
Clemson admitted its first female black student the following year. Gantt took it upon himself to play the role of big brother and show her around.
Gantt went on to graduate with honors from Clemson in 1965 and moved to Charlotte, where he co-founded Gantt-Huberman Architects. He served on the Charlotte City Council and was elected mayor in 1983.
And Lucinda Brawley, the student with whom he took the big brother role, is still in his life. Next year, they will mark their 50th wedding anniversary.