COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina native and No. 3 House Democrat James Clyburn announced Monday he's sending his congressional papers to the University of South Carolina to help bring attention to his state's contribution to the national struggle for civil rights.
"I hope I can play a role in bringing the real story of South Carolina to those who can benefit by it," said Clyburn, the first black person elected to Congress from the state since Reconstruction.
The 75-year-old congressman said he wanted his papers to become a magnet for others at the university's new Center for Civil Rights History and Research.
Clyburn said students and citizens demonstrating for civil liberties today would be encouraged by understanding the stories of many South Carolinians — black and white — who sacrificed for years to achieve equality.
He said he wants more attention paid to those who marched in demonstrations, brought legal challenges and lived through day-to-day indignities in the fight.
"I want this center to take a hard look at what South Carolina did for the civil rights movement, and so many people don't know about it," Clyburn told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
Clyburn was joined by his wife, Emily, as he made the announcement before about 150 people gathered in the Thomas Cooper Library where the new center is going to be housed.
The new center will draw from the university's collections of more than 100 civil rights leaders, politicians and citizen activists, said Tom McNally, USC's dean of libraries.
Elements of those collections were on display, showing photos and letters about the 1963 integration of the University of South Carolina and Clemson University, as well as items such as a typed expense list for people traveling to Mississippi to take part in demonstrations.
Clyburn said he hopes the center will be a catalyst for study on incidents such as the so-called "Orangeburg Massacre," in which three black students were killed by highway patrolmen during a student protest at South Carolina State University in 1968. He also mentioned the so-called "Friendship Nine," the nine black men who refused to pay bail money after being jailed for trespassing and breaching the peace during a sit-in in Rock Hill, sparking more civil disobedience protests.
Clyburn's papers document his rise to the highest levels of congressional leadership; his work on legislation such as the 2006 reauthorization of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965; and his support over the years of labor unions, the minimum wage, Pell grants and historically black educational institutions, McNally said.
Also, the papers will cast light on the inner workings of Congress and his time as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1999, through his rise as a leader of his party and finally, as chair of the House Democratic Caucus. When Democrats regained the House majority in 2006, Clyburn was chosen by his fellow lawmakers as House Majority Whip.
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