Jeffrey Collins, AP, May 30, 2009
The official manual of South Carolina’s Legislature continues to label some of the state’s former politicians as “Negro” or “scalawag”–apparent remnants of disgruntlement over Reconstruction that are drawing fresh scrutiny.
A spokesman for the state’s lieutenant governor, who is eyeing a run for the top office, has sent a letter asking for an update. But civil rights leaders don’t seem too bothered by the listings, which even led to portraits of the state’s two black speakers being put on display in the house chamber.
The lists of former governors, lieutenant governors and speakers included in the nearly 700-page manual are taken from historical documents maintained by the state, said House Clerk Charles Reid, who is in charge of compiling the book.
Historians have long noted the people who took power after Reconstruction took great steps to discredit those who ran South Carolina immediately after the South lost the Civil War. For example, the term “scalawag” was used to refer to white Southerners who supported the federal government’s actions in the region.
“It’s a historical document. We didn’t create it. It’s just there,” Reid said. “I don’t want to impose my judgment on something that is a historical record.”
Staffers in Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s office said they first became aware of the racial notation when they were contacted by a reporter from the Aiken Standard. Spokesman Frank Adams sent a letter to Reid saying the office “felt that racial designations were irrelevant” and should be deleted from future editions.
The lieutenant governors and speakers with “Negro” beside them are the only blacks to ever hold those offices in the state. Reconstruction was by far the peak of black officeholders in South Carolina, where at one point more than 60 percent of the Legislature was made up of black lawmakers.