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Honoring the first Black women who graduated from College of Charleston 50 years ago

Honoring the first Black women who graduated from College of Charleston 50 years ago
May 2022
WRITER: 

Find out how one of the trailblazers gave back to her community



(Left) Linda Dingle Gadson with her son, Reggie, after she graduated from College of Charleston in 1972. (Right) She worked at John’s Island nonprofit Rural Mission for nearly 50 years.

When four African Americans crossed College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard to receive their diplomas on May 16, 1972, they weren’t just receiving their diplomas, but leading the way to historical change.

The year before, Eddie Ganaway had become the first African American to graduate from the college. Now, he was joined by four women—Linda Dingle Gadson, Carrie Nesbitt Gibbs, Angela Brown Gilchrist, and Audrey Dingle Cooper.

The college had been admitting white men since its first class in 1790; white women were allowed in 1918, and people of color in 1967. 

After graduation, Linde Dingle Gadson, remained in Charleston. Having been involved in the 1969 hospital worker’s strike, she majored in political science and was determined to help others overcome poverty as she had. Gadsen worked for the John’s Island nonprofit Rural Mission, Inc. for nearly 50 years, eventually becoming its executive director. 

This month, more than 1,800 students are expected to receive diplomas from an institution that is 78.7 percent white, 6.3 percent African American, and 66.4 percent women. Fifty years later, change has come, yet more work lies ahead in the Lowcountry.