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Narrative: South Carolina’s First African-American Legislators, Since Reconstruction

James Felder during his Narrarive interview at SC Public Radio
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio
James Felder during his Narrarive interview at SC Public Radio

In 1967 James Felder had recently returned to South Carolina to run the Voter Education Project.  In the span of a few years, Felder helped register thousands of black South Carolinians to vote. In 1970 those votes proved to be beneficial for him and two other African Americans. That year Felder, along with I. S. Leevy Johnson and Herbert Fielding, became the first African-Americans voted to the state’s general assembly since Reconstruction. In this edition of Narrative, Dr. James Felder talks about traveling the state to register people to vote.

Advice for the Next Generation

Felder taught at Allen University in Columbia for 14 years. He chaired the Department of Business and Economics.During this time, he crossed paths with the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

"He wasn't a business major, but he took a couple of courses. He knew I'd been in the Legislature and he would come by in the afternoons and talk to me about politics."

Felder said the advice he gave Pinckney, years ago, is the same advice he gives aspiring and emerging community leaders today.

"I said, well if you're so interested in politics, then you need to be at the seat of politics, where things happen," he recalled. A call to Sen. Kay Patterson would soon position Pinckney as a Legislative Page. Below, Felder talks about Pinckney's next steps and recalls the moment he learned of his death.

LISTEN: Felder talking about the late Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney.