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Congressman James Clyburn to visit Gantt Center for book signing

Congressman James E. Clyburn (far right) will sign copies of his latest book at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture..
Congressman James E. Clyburn (far right) will sign copies of his latest book at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture..
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC) will visit the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. this Thursday, August 28, 2014, for a book signing at the Museum Shop. Admission is free and his book, “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black”, will be available for sale. The Charlotte Chapter of the South Carolina State National Alumni Association will benefit from book sales. The Robyn Springer Trio will serenade guests while hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be provided. A social networking event hosted by Herb and Felicia Gray continues the evening festivities until 11:00 p.m.

Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC) has enjoyed a long and distinguished political career in service to the United States and his home state of South Carolina. Speaking of Clyburn, President Barack Obama says he is, "one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens." Since 1993, he has represented South Carolina's sixth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Highlights of his distinguished career include a stint as House Majority Whip from 2007 to 2011, while currently he serves as assistant Democratic leader of the House.

Along the way, however, Clyburn endured encounters that steeled his resolve to fight for the civil rights of all Americans. He captured 20 years of experiences, from life with Jim Crow to life on Capital Hill, a massive document of 186,000 words, cut by 36,000 words at the publishers’ request. Clyburn’s memories are presented in his latest book, “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black”, published in 2014 by the University of South Carolina Press.

Congressman Clyburn recently spoke about the inspiration for his book title and some of the experiences that didn’t make the book.

"Way back in early 1971 what kick started the idea was a committee meeting of the state legislature. One of the House members said something that I thought had crossed the line. After the meeting I said to him that his words were uncalled for and unbecoming. The man responded, ‘Well, Clyburn, you have to understand, I am a Southerner.’ I decided later that day I will write a book with a title indicating that I, too, am a Southerner. I don’t believe being a Southerner is the exclusive prerogative of white people or people whose experience is different than that of my parents."

Once when he experienced writer’s block, inspiration came from Clyburn’s father, a fundamentalist minister. Pastor Clyburn used to prepare for his sermons by taking his last meal on Friday evening, and fasting until after Sunday service. Saturdays he would write and sing “Blessed Assurance.”

Clyburn recalled,

"Sure enough it opened my mind up. I went back to my computer and decided to change the title to 'Blessed Experiences.' To further develop the theme, I added a colon and 'Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.'"

Speaking to experiences that were horrible in his life, Clyburn told of 2 incidents that did not make the book, ending with one humorous event that did get published. Due to the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin’s shooting, and his concern that he be perceived as playing on that event, he declined to print the story about a young friend who died in similar circumstances. Another friend was shot dead, caught in a watermelon patch. The fact that his high school marching band was invited to appear in his hometown Christmas Parade, only to be placed last in line behind the equestrian unit, was infamous at the time, but funny upon reflection.

"Imagine trying to play that clarinet while sidestepping those horse [droppings] and breathing those aromas."

Rated 5 stars by by, and in its fourth printing, “Blessed Assurance” is keeping the Congressman busy with a tour including later this month a C-SPAN interview with John Lewis and stops at book festivals, the Library of Congress and locations in Decatur, Georgia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The upcoming September Congressional Black Caucus event will be another book signing stop. The tour continues through next March, 2015.

For details about the Gantt Center event, visit their website.

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