First Black Admitted to CIU Returns

Jamaica-born minister reflects on past, looks to future

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By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- This week's Black History Month story highlights the life of a man who, in 1963, was shunned by the same religious community that embraces him today and what his experience means for students at Columbia International University (CIU) today.

Jamaican-born Dr. Peter Spencer delivers a message about harmonious living to a wide range of students at Columbia International University.

"Harmonious living provides a positive example to the world,:" said Spencer to a crowded campus auditorium. However, 50 years ago, when Spencer became the first black person to be admitted to CIU, then-Columbia Bible College, he says harmony was the last thing he felt from many white students.

"I found that to be a challenge, in terms of how persons perceived me because of my color," said Spencer.

Although Dr. Spencer faced many challenges on campus, he says his most trying times came whenever he was off campus.

"We went to get something to eat. I went to the counter to place my order and the attendant looked at me and said, 'we don't serve your kind here'."

Insulted by the community, excluded from student functions, even banned from church activities he believes, all were allowed by God to strengthen him. It's a life lesson today's generation hopes will benefit them in a world still battling issues of race and inclusion.

"There's still a few different issues that come up with races here on campus, but hearing [Dr. Spencer's] perspective on how he saw it as a way to grow is something we can all learn from," said student Williams Jones.

Spencer says as his apprehension gave way to acceptance back then, division can give way to unity now.

"If we're going to make a significant change in the world, we must ourselves be that change."

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