Congressman Jim Clyburn spoke on Monday, May 5 at the Hollings Library about his new memoir entitled “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.” Clyburn has been working on the book for almost 20 years, and he described the process he went through in naming the book. The original title was “I, Too Am a Southerner.” This working title came about after a discussion Clyburn had years ago with Phil Grose, his longtime friend and collaborator on the book. An unnamed politician had made a racially offensive comment, and when Clyburn confronted him later privately, his explanation, meant to excuse the offensive comment, was that he was “a southerner.” In a later discussion about this incident Clyburn and Grose both observed that they were proud to consider themselves and their families to be southerners too.
The current title incorporates the pride that Clyburn and his family hold in having grown up in the south; while also commemorating his father’s favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance,” which he used to frequently hum around the house. As Clyburn has said of the title, “All of my experiences were not pleasant, but all of them were blessings.”
A former high school teacher, and proponent of public education, Clyburn said in his speech on Monday that he wanted “every tenth grader to be able to pick [the] book up, understand every word in it, and use it as a primer.” The event on Monday at the Hollings Library was well-attended with around 130 present, and the crowd was standing room only; many of Clyburn’s family members were present as well. 159 books were sold, exceeding the number of attendees.
SCPC donor and longtime political activist Charles T. “Bud” Ferillo introduced Clyburn, and a book-signing followed the speech. Coinciding with Clyburn’s visit and the book launch is an exhibit about the Congressman which will be on display for the month of May in the Brittain Gallery of the Hollings Library. Photographs, bumper stickers, newspaper clippings, campaign pamphlets, and buttons document Clyburn’s long and impressive career.
Contributed by Graduate Assistant Mary Kennington Steele