Black History Month is a poignant time for the entire country, but particularly the African American community. Every February, we reflect on and honor the achievements, struggles, and icons that comprise Black history. As a proud, Black man running for office and raising two young, Black boys in the South, I am acutely aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants. This month, we can and should take the time to celebrate how far we have come and acknowledge the work we still have to do.
The history of Black Americans in South Carolina is riddled with trials and tribulations. From being the first state to secede during the Civil War, to the Orangeburg Massacre, to the tragedy at Mother Emanuel, the Black community has often endured hardships that seem unfathomable. But, we are nothing if not resilient in the face of adversity, determined that we shall overcome.
That is why Black History Month is not a time for mourning, but a time of celebration. We honor icons of the national civil rights movement such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Congressman John Lewis. We reminisce on the moments where we stood tall in the face of oppression like the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And, closer to home, we honor South Carolinians like Sarah Mae Flemming, who protested segregated seating on Columbia buses even before Rosa Parks did and the Clarendon county families who were involved in Briggs v. Elliot, a foundation of the historic Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision
I personally like to reflect on the examples of Black excellence that I’ve had the fortune to cross paths with in my life in South Carolina. I think about Mr. Earl Middleton, who was Orangeburg County’s first Black elected official since Reconstruction and who gave me a summer job so that I could afford the acceptance fees to attend Yale University. And I think about Congressman Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress and forever the man I call “Boss”.
Of course, all of this is to say nothing of the countless hidden figures who won’t have their names in the history books. We are eternally grateful to the single mothers and grandmothers who sacrificed everything they could to raise little girls and boys like me. And we raise up the thousands of South Carolinians and other Americans who marched and protested in the face of injustice.
All these folks, the ones who define Black history and the faceless many who supported them, make it possible for me to be where I am today, running for the United States Senate. Our campaign is a testament to everything they accomplished. Let’s continue the legacy.