The university was founded as South Carolina College on December 19, 1801. It closed during the War Between the States due to a lack of students, re-opening in 1866. During Reconstruction, the university was the only one in the South to admit and grant degrees to blacks. Once Reconstruction ended, the university was closed for three years and then reopened in 1880 as a whites-only agricultural college.
In 1906, the institution was rechartered as the University of South Carolina. In the 1950s, other campuses across the state began to be established. On September 11, 1963, as a result of a court order, the university admitted three African-Americans, the first since Reconstruction.