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Cornelius Chapman Scott Papers, 1872-1916
    A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009

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Sixteen manuscripts, 6 August 187223 April 1916 and undated, consist chiefly of correspondence to and from African American educator Cornelius Chapman Scott (18551922). Scott was born in September 1855 at Fort Johnson, James Island (Charleston County, S.C.). He was the fifth of eleven children of Tobias Scott and Christiana Harvey Scott, of Charleston, who were free persons of color. Cornelius Scott graduated from the Avery Normal Institute in 1872 at the age of sixteen. He then attended Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., for a year before entering Howard University in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Howard's College Preparatory Department in 1873 and returned to South Carolina to enter the University of South Carolina, which had been integrated during Reconstruction (18731877). Scott graduated from the University in 1877 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and was employed in the public school system. By 1883 he had married Rosa E. Rout, of Charleston. Six of the couple's eight children survived to adulthood.

Scott joined the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1886. His service included appointments to Greenville, Spartanburg, Sumter, Camden, Yorkville, Anderson, Columbia, and Darlington as well as the Bennettsville District Superintendent. He also served as the principal of the African-American graded schools in Spartanburg, Camden, and Yorkville and chaired the first Race Conference in South Carolina, held in 1907.

Included in the collection is a lengthy letter to his parents dated 10 October 1872 in which Scott details his trip by boat from Charleston to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University. He suffered from seasickness the entire journey - "I gave three successive cheers for New York and emptied all my dinner into the waters of the wide Atlantic... " Scott also describes the warm welcome he received from his classmates, among them Alonzo Townsend and T. McCants Stewart, who would also attend the University of South Carolina. The letter includes a description of the campus and his expenses, and it comments on his fellow students - "We have young men of intelligence here whose desire is to gain knowledge and who are seeking it with their whole hearts." He relates a football game with three Chinese students at Howard and mentions an African student and two Native Americans - a female and "a little boy picked up on the plains by Gen. Howard."

In a letter to his parents on 2 April 1873 Scott reports on events in Washington, D.C., including several murders and hangings, small pox, a fire, and the sinking of the steamship Atlantic. He also describes his examinations and a speaking contest in which classmates Alonzo [Townsend] and Thomas Stewart [T. McCants Stewart] participated, relates his visit to a medical museum where he viewed displays of skeletons and a small mummified Indian papoose, and comments on nepotism at Claflin College.

During the summer of 1873, Scott worked as a waiter at the Metropolitan Hotel [presumably the Washington, D.C., establishment in business on Pennsylvania Avenue, ca. 1865-1935]. In a letter to his father on 25 July 1873 he writes that he is "getting on very well considering my dislike for the business" and notes that a group of Indians begged every day at the city's hotels. Scott also expresses frustration at the carelessness of a faculty member in grading examinations and recording the grades.

Scott reports on the deaths of two female students in his letter to his mother on 27 November 1873, one of whom was the Native American pupil Minnie Pappan. The letter includes poems he wrote in memory of the women.

Mortimer A. Warren, principal of the University of South Carolina's Normal School, writes to Scott's father on 19 October 1874, regarding Tobias Scott's interest in his son learning to play the organ. Warren advises the elder Scott that his son does not have adequate time for organ lessons and needs instead to focus on his studies. "If he keeps on with his Latin and other studies, perhaps he might sometime be a minister, and I am sure you would rather he would be a minister and preach from the pulpit than an organist and play in the gallery!" Warren closes by expressing hope that he will soon have something to report on Cornelius Scott's sister and brother, Martha and Robert, who are both enrolled in the Normal School. Scott did become a minister, receiving a Master of Arts from Syracuse University in 1891 and a Doctor of Divinity from Wilberforce University.

While assigned to the Greenville Circuit, Scott was involved in a racial incident at the opera house which he describes in great detail in a letter to his father on 8 April 1880. Scott attended a performance of a panorama sponsored by the white Presbyterian church. He purchased a full ticket and took his seat. Shortly thereafter, an employee asked him to move to the gallery. Scott refused and a policeman was called, "a contemptible 'poor white trash' who looks more like a colored than a white man." After several attempts by the policeman to get Scott to move on his own, the officer finally grasped his arm, escorted him outside, and tried to give him his money back. Scott refused the money and insisted the policeman take him to the guard house, but the police officer went back inside and closed the door. "I was boiling over with indignation, but kept perfectly cool. I wouldn't say much for fear of saying what I should regret." Scott consulted a lawyer but decided his fee was too high to bring a case against the proprietors of the opera house. He then went to the solicitor to learn about his options. "I do not intend to drop it unless I find it utterly impossible to do anything about it...[w]hen I went to the Opera House I hadn't the slightest idea of being interfered with as I had heard that colored people had sat down stairs before."

Additional materials include Scott's certificate of grades from the Fall 1872 term at Howard University and notification of his admission to the University of South Carolina in the spring of 1874.

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