Generation 7 (2000 onward):
Several students during Sikes Sit-In in 2016. Source: Call My Name Digital Archive.
The roots of Black protest at Clemson are deep, beginning at least as early as 1826 with the stories of resistance from enslaved persons at the Fort Hill Plantation and manifesting over the next two centuries in stories of escaped convict laborers as well as the first generation of Black students and their fight against racist imagery, among countless others. These roots inspire and inform the tradition of protest and activism that continues at the University to this day.
Throughout the two decades, there have been numerous organized protests on campus led by Black students, many of which received significant media coverage, such as the Sikes Sit-In in April 2016. Generation 7 encompasses student activism in the 21st century, such as the “See The Stripes” campaign and other organized efforts to call out instances of racism and discrimination in the Clemson University community.
5 Clemson student protestors on the stairs of Sikes Hall in January 2014.
Source: The Greenville News.
One of the central figures of the recent protest movements at Clemson has been Dr. A. D. Carson, who earned his Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design in 2017. His time at Clemson was preceded closely by a national moment of grief and outrage—the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman and the latter’s acquittal in the resulting trial. In 2014, just a year after he arrived at Clemson, Carson published the spoken word poem See The Stripes, a profoundly moving critique of Clemson’s refusal to reckon with its racist past. Carson’s poem challenges its readers/listeners to consider the “stripes” of a tiger (Clemson’s mascot) as a metaphor for the lives and experiences of those who have been ignored in Clemson’s “Solid Orange” approach to its history and tradition.
Much of what Carson’s poem calls out in the administration references people whose lives are being researched by Call My Name, such as the enslaved at Fort Hill, the sharecroppers under Duff Calhoun and Thomas Green Clemson, and the convicted laborers, even mentioning 13-year-old Wade Foster in particular. In addition to calling out Clemson through poetry, Carson also became a key figure in organizing protests on campus, even getting arrested along with four undergraduates during the Sikes Sit-In. In 2017, he completed his PhD with his hip-hop album dissertation titled “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes & Revolutions.” He is currently an assistant professor of Hip-Hop and the Global South at the University of Virginia, a position he has held since 2017.
Before Carson attended Clemson, another student named Whitney Anderson came to Clemson as an undergraduate in 2007 and graduated in 2011 with a degree in communications studies. During her time at Clemson, she produced a two-part documentary titled Eyes of the Tiger: A Story of Racial Diversity, highlighting the achievements and lives of Black men and women, many of whose lived experiences are glossed over by the University’s public history in favor of highlighting the school’s achievements instead. Her work helped raise awareness of the ways in which Clemson’s past is misrepresented in favor of presenting a seamless, often whitewashed narrative. Her work also explores instances of racism on the part of white students in the past, particularly the blackface party that was held just before she arrived on campus, prompting the creation of Clemson’s Black Student Union. Many instances of racism similar to this one have occurred over the years, with yearbook photos testifying to derogatory passages berating Black mess hall workers as early as the 1930s, Tigerama’s Homecoming skits performed in blackface in the 1960s, and more recently, the infamous “Cripmas” party in 2015, where white students mockingly appropriated symbols of hip-hop culture, wearing handcuffs and making gang signs while dressed in shirts with rappers’ images imprinted on them at a fraternity party hosted by the Clemson chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Events like this are unfortunately not uncommon throughout Clemson’s history, and they have often sparked protests in response.
One of the other important figures in the organization of campus protests during the 21st century was Edith Dunlap, who has worked as a research assistant for Call My Name since 2015. Dunlap arrived on campus in 2012 as an undergraduate and quickly began to organize protests with other members of the Black Clemson community. Her photographs of the protests she witnessed, participated in, and/or helped organize are invaluable in preserving the legacy and experiences of the protesters. Dunlap participated in and documented the Sikes Sit-In, among other campus-wide protests during her time at Clemson. She graduated in 2016, less than a month after the Sit-In ended, with a degree in English Writing and Publication Studies and a minor in Pan-African Studies. She continues to contribute to Call My Name, as the first student research assistant Dr. Thomas hired for the project, and she has provided invaluable contributions over the years.
Students participating in Die-In for Eric Garner on Bowman Field in 2014. Photograph by Ken Scar.
Student athlete speaking at Black Lives Matter Rally. Photograph by Ken Scar.
Ultimately, these stories are just a few of the multitude of individual and collective experiences during protests held in the past two decades. These protests—and the protesters who organized, strategized, and participated in them—represent a growing effort on the part of students, faculty, and staff to force Clemson to reconcile with its racist past, understand the ways in which its current approach erases many of the Black men and women who helped build the university, and fails to reckon with the deep scars and legacies of oppressive systems like slavery, sharecropping, and convict leasing. As Call My Name continues to dig deeply into Clemson’s past to help recover and call the names of those who are washed over by Clemson’s “Solid Orange” approach to history and tradition, the project also aims to address and acknowledge the courage and sacrifices of those presently striving to enact positive change on campus.
If you have information about anyone in Generation 7, please reach out to us through the Contact page on this website.
- Carson, A.D., See The Stripes, https://aydeethegreat.com/see-the-stripes/see-stripes/.
- Carson, Owning My Masters, https://phd.aydeethegreat.com/.
- “A.D. Carson – Faculty,” Department of Music, University of Virginia, https://music.virginia.edu/people/profile/acarson.
- Anderson, Whitney. Eyes of the Tiger: A Story of Racial Diversity, https://youtu.be/RgIOrkywp5M (pt. 1); https://youtu.be/snEVAjxfIwo (pt. 2).
- Ward, Robbie and Ron Barnett. “Off-campus Clemson party increases racial tension, Greenville News, December 7, 2014, https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/pickens-county/2014/12/07/campus-clemson-party-sparks-backlash/20054675/.