Excerpt of Clyburn’s “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black” memoir

Part Three – Finding My Way, Chapter 6: Into the Streets, Chapter 7: Back to the Basics

“Our troubles, we began to realize, were not just with the segregationist political elements in Columbia or with the closed-minded officials in the City of Orangeburg. Our troubles were right there on campus under a dictatorial president still practicing the worn-out dicta of the nineteenth century. The question facing us was whether we would continue to accept that kind of treatment. ... We decided among ourselves, to challenge that system. It was time to step forward where previous classes had accepted the status quo. It was time to make a major gesture to indicate our dissatisfaction with that status quo.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., will stop in Aiken to share excerpts and sign copies of his new memoir, “Blessed Experience: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.”


A book signing and reception to follow will be held on Sunday, June 8, at 1:30 p.m. at the Center for African American History, Art and Culture, 120 York St. N.E.


Clyburn’s newest book offers a timeline of some of his greatest triumphs to greatest obstacles. From growing up as a black man during the Jim Crow-era South to becoming the longest-serving member of the S.C. Congressional Delegation to Washington, D.C., Clyburn said he hopes readers receive the message from reading his memoir that no individual should give up their dreams despite failures.


The memoir’s title comes from specific life experiences, according to Clyburn. One of those experiences was when he overheard a member of the Legislature back in 1971 say something that he felt was over-the-top and insulting to him as a black person.


“... So when that meeting was over, I walked up to him and said, ‘I thought what you said was uncalled for,’” Clyburn said. “And his explanation to me was, ‘Well, Clyburn, you have to understand, I’m a Southerner.’ Well, I’m a Southerner, too. I said when this experience is over ... I’m going to write a book about my experiences.”


A former public school teacher, Clyburn taught history during the Bay of Pigs invasion and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He said his students seemed to take more of an interest in reading about the news, than following a textbook.


“When I was writing this book, every time I finish a chapter, I would go back and ask myself three questions,” Clyburn said. “No. 1, would those students understand what I just wrote; No. 2, would they learn in an efficient form what I just wrote; and No. 3, would they be motivated in any way by what I just wrote? ... That’s the audience I had in mind – young, developing minds, people really interested in public policy, politics and history.”


Clyburn’s book tour comes in the middle of campaigning for his seat in the sixth district. His seat expires January 2015.


For more information about Clyburn’s memoir, visit www.blessedexperiences.com.


For more information about the signing and reception, call 706-664-3989 or email aikenculturalcenter@gmail.com.


Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.