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Black History MonthL Civil rights leader I. DeQuincey Newman

As one travels up Bull Street in Columbia, just before the Harden Street intersection, there is a plain granite monument dedicating SC 277 as the “I. DeQuincey Newman Freeway” so the question becomes, who was I.DeQuincey Newman?

This monument to I DeQuincey Newman is at the intersection of Bull and Harden Streets
This monument to I DeQuincey Newman is at the intersection of Bull and Harden Streets
photo by author

The short answer is he was one of South Carolina’s important leaders during the Civil Rights Era, and he was the first African-American to be elected to the South Carolina State Senate since Reconstruction. But there’s a little more to the story.

Newman, known as “I.D.”(1911-1985),was born in Darlington County in 1911. After graduating from Clark College in Atlanta, Newman became an ordained Methodist minister. While serving as a student pastor to a congregation of sharecroppers in Red Oak, Georgia, Newman attempted to persuade a plantation owner to put an extremely sick sharecropper in the hospital. Newman was greeted by a shotgun and told to get out.

Moving back to South Carolina in 1937, Newman was instrumental in organizing the Orangeburg chapter of the NAACP in 1943. From there, Newman held a series of leadership positions. As the Civil Rights struggle hit the headlines, Newman became the Field Secretary for the South Carolina Chapter of the NAACP Using diplomacy rather than confrontation, Newman was successful in keeping the violence to a minimum. But Newman was no pushover, in the words of Jack Bass, a newspaperman of the time, “he knew when to push and how far to push.”

In 1969, Newman stepped down as NAACP head and returned to preaching and also served as a commissioner of the South Carolina Housing Authority. In 1983, he became the first African-American in modern times elected to the State Senate and served for 2 years, resigning because of ill health. He died a short time later.

Newman is remembered in a variety of ways, with a church named after him in Columbia and the aforementioned monument on the side of the road.

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