James Clyburn: Then and Now

By Laura Stillwagon

As part of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grant we recently received, and  alongside digitizing the South Carolina Council on Human Relations archive held at UofSC’s South Caroliniana Library, a new website for civil rights collections will be created to allow for easier searching and browsing of these collections. Much of the civil rights collections available online in Digital Collections, South Carolina Political Collections, Moving Image and Research Collections and elsewhere, encapsulate the state of South Carolina’s experience and memory of the Civil Rights Era.

To prepare for the website, a large assessment and evaluation of the current civil rights collections is being done. While searching through some of the content, some of the recorded early work of James Clyburn, current Majority Whip and Democratic Representative of South Carolina, was found. He has had a long political career in South Carolina, and a lot of his activity during the Civil Rights Era and after was recorded. Representative Clyburn has even been in the news lately for his appointment as Chairman of the bipartisan House committee created to manage spending on measures made to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the aberrant events of today, Majority Whip Clyburn was involved in both social justice and bureaucracy during and after the Civil Rights Era. An active participant in the Civil Rights Movement, outtakes from the two speeches given by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Columbia show Clyburn at the front row. Following the Civil Rights Movement, he was the acting Head of the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission. Rep. Clyburn was also an assistant to the South Carolina Governor West for Human Resources, where he dispelled misinformation on the economic disparities of poor and African American people-in-need. In 1971, Clyburn was elected president of Young Democrats of South Carolina. In 2015, Clyburn announced the donation of his papers to the Center for Civil Rights History and Research as part of the opening ceremony for the establishment of the center at the University of South Carolina’s Hollings Library.

Video above: WIS-TV newsman Tom Howard introduces James Clyburn, assistant to Governor John West for human resources. Clyburn tries to dispel the “welfare Cadillac” myth, which purports that ineligible people misuse the food stamp program.

Documents and more on James Clyburn can be found here. More local TV newsreel outtakes from MIRC can be found here, as well as more collections that document South Carolina during the Civil Rights Era. Stay tuned for our CLIR digital collection updates!

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References

Forgey, Q. (2020, 5 April). Clyburn: House coronavirus panel ‘will be forward-looking,’ not review Trump’s early response. Politico. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/05/trump-clyburn-house-coronavirus-panel-166064