The writing below is the full text of the speech delivered by Rev. Joseph A. Darby, 1st Vice President of the Charleston Branch, on Monday, February 16, 2015 at a rally for South Carolina State University held at the State Capitol in Columbia. The rally was organized by the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.
A scripture of my faith tradition says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” In keeping with the words of that scripture, please allow me a few minutes to share a little truth and a few suggestions.
The truth begins with the fact that South Carolina actually has two land grant colleges originally designated to promote agricultural research and mechanical arts.
Clemson University was established through the first Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. South Carolina State University was established through the second Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890, which required the former Confederate states with land grant colleges to either open them to all students or to establish separate institutions for black students.
The first Morrill act gave states both land and money for those colleges, but the second Morrill act granted money only in limited amounts to black colleges. The truth is that South Carolina State University’s initial funding was separate and unequal, and that South Carolina State has never been funded at the same level as our state’s other public colleges and universities.
The Morrill acts also encouraged states to match federal funds with “dollar to dollar” state funds. A 2013 study by the Association of Public and Land Grant uUniversities shows that while our state has provided “dollar to dollar” matching funds for Clemson, it has not provided the same funding to South Carolina State.
What that means in real terms is that from 2010 to 2012, South Carolina State was underfunded by over six million matching dollars ($6,000,000), not counting other possible state appropriations.
The truth is that when I entered South Carolina State and was a member of the Garnet and Blue Marching 101 in the fall of 1969, the University was underfunded and struggling, but the faculty was committed to excellence, and the university was still a beacon of light for black students who sought to advance themselves and was still a crucible for progressive action.
The truth is that the state of South Carolina has a sad and sorry history of only giving South Carolina State enough to “get by,” and we need to say loud and clear today that we’re tired of just “getting by.” South Carolina State deserves equal treatment with every state institution of higher learning, because those students who make their way through South Carolina State aren’t seeking handouts – they’re nobly pursuing a higher education that affirms the words of the late, great James Brown, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, just open up the door and I’ll get it myself.”
Much has also been said about the fact that South Carolina State University’s graduation rate is 14 percent. The truth, however, lies in the United States Department of Education’s 2013 Digest of Educational Statistics. Those statistics show that the four year graduation rate for African-American students at all colleges and universities in the united states is 17 percent.
The six year national graduation rate for black students is actually 36 percent – the same as South Carolina State’s six year graduation rate. By that measure, the truth is that South Carolina State is on par with most colleges and universities in our nation – predominantly black and predominantly white.
The truth is that South Carolina State University has been treated like the proverbial “stepchild,” but has actually performed as well as other institutions of higher education in producing African-American graduates, but the truth doesn’t end there. The truth also extends to many of us who are here today and to many alumni and supporters of South Carolina State University.
The House Ways and Means Higher Education Subcommittee’s arrogant, ill-advised, inflammatory and outrageous recommendation to close the University for a couple of years – an action that further damaged the reputation of the University and would actually kill the University – has a positive side.
That mean spirited and insulting recommendation ignited the spark that got us here, and I’m glad we’re here. The legislature isn’t in session today, but that’s alright. They weren’t in session on the first King Day at the Dome march and rally that prompted those in the building behind me to take the flag of the Confederacy that still flies in the wrong place at least halfway down.
The truth is that the recommendation to close the University energized those of us who have seen media reports of problems at South Carolina State, but have done nothing thus far but shake our heads and move on. That recommendation got us here, and the truth is that those of us who are here ought to take action when we leave here.
We ought to say that the time is out for alumni and friends of South Carolina State to ignore self serving people in positions of university governance who make South Carolina State their political and financial “playgrounds.” The time is out for us to read about the financial and legal woes of South Carolina State and do nothing to call those who set policy for the university into account.
We need to stand by and support the committed faculty and dedicated students who do their best to build upon South Carolina State’s powerful legacy of excellence and progress. We need to speak out not only with our voices, but also with our dollars, so that we can build up an endowment for South Carolina State that rivals the endowment of other state institutions of higher learning. We can’t just “party hearty” and tailgate at football games, we have to lend our time, energy, voices and resources to the fight for the well being of South Carolina State every day.
I’m glad that we’re all here today, but we can’t just rally and go home; we have to stay on the case and demand that our governor and that some of our legislators do more than use South Carolina State University as a “political football” to be kicked around for political gain, and let me be frank with the rest of the truth.
The truth is that some reasonable and well intentioned people in our state’s Senate are already working on reasonable solutions to fix what’s wrong with South Carolina State University. Some responsible voices in the House of Representatives are doing so as well, but too many of those in the house of representatives think that they can do as they please because few supporters of South Carolina State University live in their house districts.
The truth is that we gave them the right to feel that way in the last general election. Of the roughly 900,000 registered black voters in our state, only 300,000 went to the polls this past November. We have to get busy, get out the vote next time around and send some mean-spirited, bigoted and self serving elected officials home in 2016, because no legislative seat is a “safe seat” if those who stand for unity and progress go to the polls and vote.
Three of the four members of the Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education unknowingly picked the right time to make a bad proposal. They did so in the midst of Black History Month, when we celebrate people like Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Congressman James E. Clyburn, Federal Judge Matthew J. Perry, and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest Finney; people like State Representative Juanita Goggins, Retired Major General Abraham Turner and National Football League greats Donnie Shell and Harry Carlson – all graduates of South Carolina State University.
Three of the four members of the state Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education made a bad and outrageous proposal on the week after we remembered Henry Smith, William Hammond and Delano Middleton, who were murdered by members of our state’s Highway Patrol on February 8, 1968 during the fight for human and civil rights.
As another scripture of my faith tradition says, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
This is the day when all people of good will, regardless of skin color or political affiliation, need to stand up, draw a line in the sand and tell those who would mess over South Carolina State University that we won’t stand for it, we won’t back up and we won’t turn around.
This is the day when those of us who love South Carolina State University should resolve to stand by the institution’s students and faculty, so that they’ll know that they don’t fight alone and that the “bulldog spirit” still lives. This is the day to let those who think that they can arbitrarily mess over a venerable institution know that this is not Jim Crow South Carolina of 50 years ago and that even in the year 2015, the old saying of my ancestors in the faith is still true, “God still has all power, and the Lord does not like ugly.”
This is the day for us to resolve to stabilize South Carolina State, to send those with a “confederacy of the mind” home on Election Day in 2016 and to see that freedom and justice roll like mighty rivers in our state.
Let’s stay on the case, let’s make a difference, let’s see that South Carolina State University is alive, well, on task and faithful to her mission. Let us do so affirming the words of James Weldon Johnson, “Facing the rising sun of a new day begun, let us march on till victory is won,” and let us do so affirming the words that are dear to all of those who love South Carolina State,
Hail, Hail, Dear Alma Mater; Hail, Hail, Dear S.C.C.; we’ll defend and honor, love and cherish thee!