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University History

Appendix 3: Biographies of Proposed Names

T. McCants Stewart

Reasons for Naming

  • One of first Black enrollees and graduates from the University of South Carolina
  • S.C. educator and attorney alongside well-known politicians
  • Significant international figure and attorney
  • Civil rights advocate and lawyer


T. McCants Stewart (1853-1923)

Thomas McCants Stewart was born December 28, 1853, to George Gilchrist Stewart and Anna Morris, two free people of color in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended the Avery Normal Institute and enrolled at Howard University in 1869. In 1874, he left Howard to enroll at the University of South Carolina, where he graduated with a B.A. and L.L.B. in December 1875. He was one of the first Black students to enroll at the university. Upon graduating, he taught mathematics at the State Agricultural and Mechanical College (now South Carolina State University) in Orangeburg, and in 1878 joined the law firm of former U.S. Representative, South Carolina Attorney General and South Carolina legislator Robert Brown Elliott. Around that same time, Stewart became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and became pastor of the Bethel AME Church in New York in 1880.

While in New York, Stewart became well known as a national civil rights leader and attorney. He argued several civil rights cases, served on the Brooklyn Board of Education and became one of the foremost Black advocates for the Democratic Party. In 1883, he migrated to Liberia, teaching at Liberia College, and encouraged other African Americans to do the same. He returned to New York in 1885, then moved to Hawaii in 1898, where he helped draft the Honolulu City Charter and challenged the Chinese Exclusion Act in courts. After a brief stay in London in 1905, Stewart returned to Liberia in 1906 and was appointed an associate justice on the Liberian Supreme Court in 1911. After harsh criticism of Liberia’s president, Stewart was removed from the court in 1914 and moved back to London.

Stewart once again moved, this time to the Virgin Islands, in 1921. He and another experienced lawyer opened a legal practice and helped the Virgin Islanders delegations in their petitions to U.S. Congress. He contracted pneumonia in 1922 and died in St. Thomas on January 7, 1923.



Broussard, Albert S. “Stewart, Thomas McCants.” South Carolina Encyclopedia Online. August 10, 2016.

Wynes, Charles E. “T. McCants Stewart: Peripatetic Black South Carolinian.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 80 (October 1979): 311–17.

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