The first Black students to desegregate the College of Charleston enrolled soon after President Grice left his position. President Grice retired in 1965, leaving the College of Charleston in near financial ruin and with a reputation as a backward-looking bastion of white supremacy. Under his successor, President Walter Coppedge, the College agreed to comply with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in July 1966. Though still private, this left the College in the position to desegregate.
Desegregation itself unfolded in a haphazard manner. According to the Board of Trustees Minutes from October 1966, two Black women, Louise Smalls Moore and Sonja Ann Perey, had registered for classes in the fall of that year. Moore had enrolled as a “special” part-time student and Perey as a full-time student. However, the administration initially did not realize they had accepted the College’s first full-time African American student. When Perey picked up an application from the College, the staff incorrectly assumed she was Filipino. A handful of Asian and Asian American students had attended the College since at least the 1940s, but only when the administration belatedly realized that Perey was the first full-time African American student did they consider the College desegregated. To define desegregation in this way effectively enforced the erasure of Asian and Asian American students from the College’s history. It also reflected a pervasive white supremacist doctrine, which allowed for certain ethnic groups to occupy white spaces due to their perceived proximity to whiteness on a racial spectrum in which whiteness and blackness represented opposite ends. Soon after ushering in desegregation, the Board of Trustees pushed out President Coppedge in 1968. He was convinced that his termination directly resulted from his position on integration.