Dr. Henrie Monteith Treadwell. Image from Columbia City of Women.
(1946 - ) Henrie Dobbins Monteith was born to R. Rebecca Monteith in Columbia, South Carolina. Her grandparents, aunts, uncle and mother were all active in the early civil rights movement. Henrie attended a private Catholic school in Columbia. She then attended another private school in Virginia to prepare her for an eventual challenge to the University of South Carolina’s policy against admitting Black students. As her aunt, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, played a public role in both the Briggs v. Elliott and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The hope was that Treadwell would be shielded from public scrutiny until it was time to challenge the University of South Carolina.
In May 1962, Henrie Monteith applied for admission to the university but was rejected. With the help of her aunt and civil rights lawyer Matthew Perry, they sued. The class action suit was ruled in her favor, opening up the opportunity for two Black men, James Solomon and Robert Anderson, to successfully apply to the university as well. Monteith submitted her new application and her uncle’s home was bombed less than two weeks later.
On September 11, 1963, Monteith, Solomon and Anderson peacefully registered for classes, integrating the university. All three students experienced harassment in the form of threatening calls, late-night door knocking and racial slurs. Monteith graduated in 1965, becoming the first Black graduate of the University of South Carolina since Reconstruction and the university’s first Black woman graduate. She received a B.S. in biochemistry. She received her master’s in biology from Boston University and her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Atlanta University and did postdoctoral work in public health at Harvard University. Dr. Treadwell also served as the program director at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, and was the chair of the division of mathematics and natural sciences at Morris Brown College from 1975 to 1985. She is currently a world-renowned public health expert and is the director of Community Voices at the Morehouse School of Medicine. She studies areas of health care for underserved populations: specifically, the health concerns of teenage African American males, prison health, health policy and health services.