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Published on September 10th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Discovering the Spirit of an Activist

Pictured above I. DeQuincey Newman

newman3In April 2014 The Spirit of an Activist of an Activist: The Life and Work of I. DeQuincey Newman was published by the University of South Carolina Press.

This book, conceived and edited by Dr. Sadye  Logan, chronicles the life and distinguished career of Isaiah DeQuincey Newman, a Protestant pastor, civil rights leader, and South Carolina statesman. Newman’s activist spirit burned brightly from the moment of birth (1911) to the moment of transition (1985).  Not unlike the President of the United States, many regaled his accomplishment as well as criticized his approach and style of leadership   He was known as a tenacious advocate for racial equality, and was also renowned for his diplomatic skills when working with opponents and his advocacy of nonviolent protest.  His leadership and dedication to peaceful change played an important role in the dismantling of segregation in South Carolina. Despite the significance of his role in changing the intractable nature of race relations in South Carolina many still do not know his name or role in our state racial history. It is hope that readers of The Spirit of an Activist will come away with an expanded vision of who Newman was. However, this lack of familiarity with Newman  is not surprising, given that prior to this book most of what was written about Newman comprised newspaper articles that often recited the same facts and events but didn’t.’t tell the whole story.

The Spirit of an Activist is essentially biographical, but uses a diverse chorus of voices to capture Newman’s rich and varied contributions in transforming South Carolina’s rigid and unjust social systems.  The voices of the people interviewed bring richness to the story being told and, provides a certain authenticity that makes the book unique.

Through this collection the editor takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from Newman’s childhood in Darlington County, South Carolina, to his death at the age of seventy-four. Along that journey Newman led the state’s African Americans to join the Democratic Party, worked to change South Carolina segregated systems, was an international advocate for peace and justice, and was a delegate to several Democratic Presidential Conventions. He was also the founder of churches, a state government official, an entrepreneur, and community organizer.  In 1983 he became the first African American South Carolinian elected to the State Senate in nearly a century.

His quiet dignity and appeals to reason was hallmark in his approach to leadership .He was as comfortable making the case for equality and justice in the streets as he was behind the scenes forging unity among South Carolina’s black and white leaders. His ability to work seamlessly in multiple ways over a lifetime was critical in understanding and appreciating what it meant to be in the struggle for a just and equal society. This is an important point in that Newman‘s life and work are a microcosm of the civil rights movement covering this incredible arc of the twentieth century.

In the years that followed formal desegregation, Newman remained active in politics and became a political consultant and trusted confidant of state leaders, some of whom are featured in this volume. The Spirit of an Activist includes a foreword by attorney and civil rights activist Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., and a prologue by South Carolina congressman James E. Clyburn, both mentees and personal friends of Newman who worked with him during the civil rights struggle

The thirteen narratives in this volume by such diverse contributors as Gloria Rackley, Richard W. Riley, William Saunders, Esther Nell Witherspoon, and Donald L. Fowler attest to Newman’s impact on South Carolina. The editor orchestrates these many contributions into an informative, moving, and sometimes passionate collage of Newman’s challenges, triumphs, and small and significant everyday acts of courage.

Essentially, this book is an important resource for researchers and scholars or anyone interested in the life and work of Newman. It also has an appeal for young readers. More importantly however, it is hoped that this book will spark more interest in our forgotten Civil Rights sheroes and heroes that people haven’t heard of. It is also hoped that readers will leave the book motivated to work toward a more just and equal society.

  The editor has described this biography as, “a book of discoveries.” She believes that the engaged and curious reader will not only discover many things about Newman, but will equally discover many things about himself or herself. In this regard, she challenges all South Carolinian to Discover Their Activist Spirit… To recommit themselves to some form of activism that will make this world a more just and equal place.  She also agrees withDavid Lauderdale, columnist and associate editorial page editor for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette that The Spirit of an Activist: The Life and Work of I. DeQuincey Newman should be on the list of books that every South Carolinian should read.

In concluding, the editor warmly extends the invitation below:

Join us for the official book launch and reception of The Spirit of an Activist: The Life and Work of I. DeQuincey Newman, published by the University of South Carolina Press and edited by Sadye L. M. Logan with foreword by Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. and prologue by James E. Clyburn.

The event will be held Thursday, September 25 at the South Carolina State Library in Columbia, 1500 Senate Street from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Parking is available in the lot behind the library off Bull Street.

RSVP by September 15 and pre-order signed copies via sadyel@mailbox.sc.edu or call 803-777-3912 or 803-777-3912.  Copies of the book will also be for sale at the signing.

All the proceeds from the book will be contributed to a scholarship fund to support the education of students of color from rural South Carolina.

For more information, please visit http://sadyel.wix.com/dreammakers.

Dr. Sadye L. M. Logan

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