Unmarked Graves of Former VP's Slaves Found on Campus

Clemson says it found more than 200 graves
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2020 5:32 PM CDT
Unmarked Graves of Former VP's Slaves Found on Campus
Clemson University founder Thomas Clemson inherited the site from his wife, the daughter of slaveowner and former vice president John C. Calhoun.   (Getty Images/DenisTangneyJr.)

Clemson University says it has discovered more than 200 unmarked graves on its campus—including those of enslaved people owned by former Vice President John Calhoun. The South Carolina university says researchers discovered at least 215 graves after students raised concerns about the site, a hillside at the university's on-campus cemetery, the Greenville News reports. The graves are believed to be those of people enslaved at Calhoun's Fort Hill Plantation, and of "sharecroppers and Black laborers, including convicted individuals involved in the construction of Clemson College from 1890 to 1915," the university said in a release. "All are believed to be African Americans."

Calhoun, who was vice president under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, was a fierce defender of slavery, the Washington Post notes. His plantation later became the Clemson campus. The university says it believes further research at the site is likely to detect more graves. Clemson has hired a full-time historian to help research the lives of people who might be buried there. The university says it is working with local Black communities on a memorial for the site. "We are committed to taking all the critically important actions to enhance these grounds, preserve these gravesites and to ensure the people buried there are properly honored and respected," says Smyth McKissick, chairman of Clemson’s board of trustees. (More Clemson stories.)

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