Claflin University

Coordinates: 33°29′54.08″N 80°51′14.53″W / 33.4983556°N 80.8540361°W / 33.4983556; -80.8540361
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Claflin University
Former names
Claflin College
Motto"The World Needs Visionaries"
TypePrivate, HBCU
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Endowment$48.6 million
PresidentDwaun J. Warmack
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 40 acres (16 ha)
Colors   Orange & Maroon
NicknamePanthers and Lady Panthers
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Claflin University is a private historically black university in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Founded in 1869 after the American Civil War by northern missionaries for the education of freedmen and their children, it offers bachelor's and master's degrees.[2]


Main building of Claflin University, 1899

It was originally named Claflin College, and was founded in 1869 by Alonzo Webster (1818–1887), a minister for the Methodist Episcopal Church (today the United Methodist Church).[3] Claflin College opened its doors on October 27, 1869.[4]

Webster came from Vermont to South Carolina as a missionary to teach at the Baker Bible Institute in Charleston, a training school for African American ministers.[5] The Baker Biblical Institute in Charleston, was an institution established by the South Carolina Mission Conference of 1866 of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the education of African American ministers. In 1870, the Baker Biblical Institute merged with Claflin University.

Webster had received a charter from the state of South Carolina to establish a college freed slaves to take their rightful places as full American citizens.[5][3] Claflin University is the oldest historically black college or university in South Carolina and touts itself as the first college in the state to welcome all students regardless of race or gender. It was the first Black college to offer architectural drawing courses.[6]

The university was named after two Methodist churchmen: Massachusetts Governor William Claflin and his father, Boston philanthropist Lee Claflin, who provided a large part of the funds to purchase the 43-acre (17 ha) campus.[3][4] Claflin's first president was Alonzo Webster, who had previously spent time as a member of Claflin's board of trustees. Since the administration of Webster, Claflin has been served by eight presidents.

An act by the South Carolina General Assembly on March 12, 1872, designated the South Carolina State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute as a part of Claflin University. In 1896 the S.C. General Assembly passed an act of separation which severed the State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute from Claflin University and established a separate institution which eventually became South Carolina State University.[7]

In 2020, American novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated US $20 million to Claflin University. Her donation is the largest single gift in Claflin's history.[8]



Claflin University's Tingley Hall, designed by alumni William Wilson Cooke
Claflin University's Tingley Hall, designed by alumni William Wilson Cooke

Claflin offers degrees through four schools:

  • School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • School of Business
  • School of Education

Student life[edit]


Claflin University's athletics teams are referred to as the Panthers. The university is a member of the Division II level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), primarily competing in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) since the 2018–19 academic year. The Panthers have also competed in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) from 2008–09 to 2017–18; as well as in the defunct Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (EIAC) from 1983–84 to 2004–05.

Claflin competes in ten intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's basketball, baseball, cross country and track & field, and women's basketball, cheerleading, cross country, softball, track & field and volleyball.

Claflin has an all-girl cheerleading team that serves as athletics support and ambassadors of the university as well as their pep band.

Student organizations[edit]

There are over 50 student organizations on campus, including several honor societies, and chapters for eight of the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations. [10]

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Robert Charles Bates did not graduate He taught at Claflin University from 1890 to 1897, and designed Fisk Hall (destroyed), T. Willard Lewis Chapel, and other campus buildings. [11]
Gloria Rackley Blackwell 1953 Civil rights activist, professor at Clark Atlanta University. [12]
William Wilson Cooke 1893, 1902 Architect, designed Lee Library (1898) and Tingley Memorial Hall. He went to Washington, D.C., to become the first black architect in the Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury, and planned and administered federal buildings. [11]
Joseph H. Jefferson 1970 Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing the 102nd District. [13]
E. Roger Mitchell 1993 Actor in The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. [14][15]
Ernest Newman 1948 First African-American bishop of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. [11]
Arthur Rose Sr. 1950 Chair of Art Department (1952-1973) at Claflin University; the Arthur Rose Museum at the university was named for him [16]
James S. Thomas 1939 First African-American bishop of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church [11]
Henry N. Tisdale B.S. 1965 Eighth president of Claflin University. First African-American to earn a PhD. In mathematics at Dartmouth College. [11][3]
Leo Twiggs 1956 Artist and educator at South Carolina State University; the first African American to receive a doctorate of Arts from the University of Georgia. [17]
Cecil J. Williams 1960 American photographer, founder of the Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum, publisher, author and inventor best known for his photography documenting the civil rights movement in South Carolina. [18]
Bryan Andrew Wilson 2004 Gospel artist [19]


  1. ^ Official website, Claflin University
  2. ^ "Academic Programs". Archived from the original on 2012-05-20.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Claflin's past a 'revealing slice of Southern history'". The Times and Democrat. 1994-12-02. p. 24. Retrieved 2023-03-04.
  4. ^ a b "Claflin University". South Carolina Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2023-02-28.
  5. ^ a b c "Claflin University (1869- )". 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2023-02-28.
  6. ^ "The son of a former slave became a groundbreaking architect. This crumbling building is about to come down". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2023-02-27.
  7. ^ Neufeld, Rob (2018-02-25). "History of Claflin University". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  8. ^ Claflin receives $20 million donation[dead link]
  9. ^ a b Thomas, June M. (2022-03-10). Struggling to Learn: An Intimate History of School Desegregation in South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-64336-260-1.
  10. ^ "Clubs & Organizations".
  11. ^ a b c d e "Notable Alumni" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  12. ^ Carolyn Click, "Orangeburg civil rights icon, and Claflin alumna Dr. Gloria Rackley Blackwell dies" Archived 2011-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, Claflin University (December 10, 2010). Retrieved June 2, 2011
  13. ^ "Joseph H Jefferson". Archived from the original on 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
  14. ^ "E. Roger Mitchell". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-11-09.
  15. ^ "Claflin University". World University Rankings. Times Higher Education. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  16. ^ "The Johnson Collection - Rose, Arthur 1921-1995". Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  17. ^ "Hampton III Gallery Artist: Leo F. Twiggs (1934- )". Archived from the original on 2018-04-24. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  18. ^ "Cecil Williams". Sandlapper Publishing. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  19. ^ "Gospel Veteran Bishop Bryan Andrew Wilson". Archived from the original on 2014-02-12. Retrieved 2014-03-24.

External links[edit]

33°29′54.08″N 80°51′14.53″W / 33.4983556°N 80.8540361°W / 33.4983556; -80.8540361