Re-igniting the Movement: Honoring US Majority Whip James E. Clyburn

United States Congressman James E. Clyburn was the first Black congressman to be elected to head to Washington DC from South Carolina after the Black Reconstruction Congress that included the Gullah Statesman Robert Smalls. Congressman Clyburn has been a board member at Penn Center on historic St. Helena Island, SC and a history teacher in Charleston, SC. His beloved late wife Emily was a native Gullah/Geechee from the Santee area whereas his roots stem from Sumter, SC.

Congressman James E. Clyburn and Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation ( worked together on the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act and on the International African American Museum (IAAM). They stand proudly together on historic St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

Congressman Clyburn has consistently fought for Black land ownership, Due to his work with Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to get Gullah/Geechee culture recognized and protected, this ultimately culminated in him getting his counterparts in the United States Congress to pass the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act. The citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation have celebrated many subsequent accomplishments with him including the naming of a building in Charleston at the Medical University of South Carolina in his honor, the unveiling of the Reconstruction National Monument on St. Helena Island, and the ground breaking for the visionary project, the International African American Museum (IAAM) which he and former Charleston Mayor Riley worked to get under way. So, they truly beat drums when they announced that Congressman Clyburn would be the US Majority Whip!

Congressman Clyburn is the third-ranking Democrat in the United States House of Representatives, and currently serves as the Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis.  He is the Chairman of the Rural Broadband Task Force and Democratic Faith Working Group.  His faith has taken him many steps up the Hill from the Lowcountry.

When he came to Congress in 1993 to represent South Carolina’s sixth congressional district, Congressman Clyburn was elected co-president of his freshman class and quickly rose through leadership ranks. He was subsequently elected Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Vice Chairman, and later Chairman, of the House Democratic Caucus. He previously served as Majority Whip from 2007 to 2011 and served as Assistant Democratic Leader from 2011 to 2019.  

As a national leader, he has championed rural and economic development and many of his initiatives have become law.  His 10-20-30 federal funding formula was included in four sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Congressman Clyburn is also a passionate supporter of historic preservation and restoration programs.  His efforts have restored scores of historic buildings and sites on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).  His legislation created the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor and the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, elevated the Congaree National Monument to a national park, and established the Reconstruction Era National Monument which is now the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.  

Congressman Clyburn’s humble beginnings in Sumter, South Carolina as the eldest son of an activist, fundamentalist minister and an independent, civic-minded beautician grounded him securely in family, faith and public service. His memoir, Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, was published in 2015, and has been described ‎as a primer that should be read by every student interested in pursuing a career in public service.  

Congressman Clyburn and his late wife, Emily England Clyburn, met as students at South Carolina State University and were married for 58 years. They are the parents of three daughters; Mignon Clyburn, Jennifer Reed, and Angela Hannibal and four grandchildren. The entire family and the Gullah/Geechee Nation will be celebrating with Congressman Clyburn as The International Civil Rights Center & Museum honors him for his work in civil rights and on behalf of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. We invite you to also obtain your ticket to be a part of this historic gala. Go to Help us Re-Ignite the Movement!

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