First Black Winthrop University Grad Recalls End Of Segregation -

First Black Winthrop University Grad Recalls End Of Segregation

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Students walk through their campus at Winthrop University, not paying attention to each other's skin color.

On a day where students of all races have gathered to remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one woman has some difficult memories.

“Being the only one, there was some isolation,” said Cynthia P. R Roddey.

Roddey was the first African American student ever to attend Winthrop University. She enrolled in 1963 after a peaceful end to segregation. Today is a special MLK day for her because fifty years ago, she became the first African American student to graduate from Winthrop.

But it wasn’t easy.

“I did not feel like Winthrop was my school when I graduated,” said Roddey. “I did not even attend my own graduation because I thought there would be a media hoopla and I wanted to avoid that.”

Though painful and difficult at times, she blazed the trail for African American students in Rock Hill who wanted to go to college.

Now, 33 percent of the Winthrop student body is black.

“We’ve come a long way from the days when there was one minority student on our campus to more than a third of our students come from domestic minorities,” said Winthrop University President Dr. Jayme Marie Comstock.

Today, those students gathered, regardless of their background, to give back. Instead of spending their day off from school sleeping in, they came out of their comfort zones to do something better.

Just like Roddey did 50 years ago, when she first stepped foot on Winthrop’s campus.

“I encourage students to take a challenge to go into the deep water. It’s not going to always be safe, there will be some dangerous times, but someone has to take that challenge,” said Roddey.

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