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Black stockings left hanging from trees at S.C. college

Jeffrey Collins
Associated Press

Columbia, S.C. — Someone left black nylon stockings filled with dirt hanging from tree branches outside a South Carolina university hall named for an avowed racist.

The 18 stockings, shaped to abstractly look like a human head and body, were found Sunday morning outside Tillman Hall, with a sign taped over a plaque reading “Tillman’s Legacy,” according to a police report from Winthrop University in Rock Hill.

“While we do not know the intent of this display, these images are clearly hurtful and threatening and are contrary to the values of Winthrop University,” president Dan Mahony said in an email sent to faculty and students.

The stockings appeared to be placed overnight because they were wet from the morning rain, and there was no security camera footage of the incident, according to the police report.

Mahony promised a full investigation into the stockings and said whoever is responsible will be held accountable by the university judicial system and state law.

Tillman Hall at Winthrop was vandalized at least twice in 2015, with graffiti on the building and paint thrown on a portrait of Tillman inside.

Tillman was a South Carolina governor and a U.S. senator. He helped lead a mob that killed four blacks in July 1876 as racist whites pushed to regain control of state government during Reconstruction.

He said blacks were cannibals, barbarians and savages in Africa and it was foolish to think they would be any different in the United States.

A major building at Clemson University is also named for Tillman, who was instrumental in the founding of the two schools. Both schools have issued statements uncomfortable with Tillman’s legacy, but point out they need a two-thirds vote from the Legislature to change the name — a law put in place to protect the Confederate flag on the Statehouse lawn.

The flag was removed in July 2015 after nine black churchgoers were killed in what police said was a racially motivated attack in Charleston.

A Tillman statue still stands prominently nearby where the rebel banner flew. South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas has said his chamber won’t take up any more monument or naming questions.

The stockings at Tillman Hall were found a day after a fire at the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce. State and federal investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire. Before the building broke ground, someone spray painted “Racist” in red letters on its sign in July 2015, the same month the Confederate flag was removed from the Statehouse.