Surrounded by the historic buildings on the University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe, visitors today can feel themselves transported to the nineteenth century. Even though it is remarkable that so many antebellum buildings remain, an important part of the historic landscape is largely missing—its slave quarters and outbuildings. Only one such building remains, in the garden behind the current President’s House. As you look at historic images of the campus on this website, take care to look for the outbuildings, where slaves worked and lived. Artists did not focus on these structures, but they also made no attempt to hide this part of the built environment that has since been erased from the modern campus by time and neglect.
The campus we experience today would not exist without the labor of slaves, who both built and maintained it. Official records only credit the white builder or contractor in charge of the project, but these men owned and frequently hired slaves with building skills to carry out their projects. These contractors, who were responsible for providing all of their own materials, often purchased bricks from Columbia brickmakers. Slaves owned and hired by brickyards performed the work of making bricks by hand, not only to be used at the college, but also for construction of structures all over the relatively young city.
After reading these short building biographies, consider walking around the Horseshoe with fresh eyes. You will not find the last remaining slave quarters on a campus map, but it is easily visible from several main paths. It stands as a silent reminder of the university’s past, as well as an opportunity to engage current and future students in questions of memory that remain important in the present day.