Who can forget that picture of Bree Newsome as she scaled a flagpole on the State House grounds in Columbia, S.C., to bring down (temporarily) the Confederate flag? But what about her mom and dad – what do they think of their now-famous daughter?
At the Harvey B. Gantt Center last week, where Bree was part of a panel discussing the flag and related events, we cornered her father, the Rev. Clarence G. Newsome, to ask just that question.
Clarence Newsome is president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and sits on the board of trustees at Duke University. He said he had come to Charlotte on vacation, which just happened to coincide with his daughter’s speaking engagement.
Here’s what we talked about:
Q. What do you think of your daughter and all that has happened with her in recent weeks?
I’m very thankful that I have a daughter like her, because she has grown into a set of values which bespeaks truth – the sort of truth that stands the test of ages, and she has the strength of her convictions to live that truth out respectfully, honorably, with the concerns of others in mind. That’s quite some virtue, and I cannot help but be very, very thankful to have a daughter like her.
Q. Did she talk with you about what she was going to do?
No, she did not say anything to me, and she didn’t say anything to her mother, but it wasn’t out of any disrespect. She later did apologize to us for causing us any worry once we became aware of the news on the television. When we talked about it, she said something to me like this: ‘Daddy, I’ve heard you preach all my life. I believed what you have preached, and I felt that if God called me to do his work, then God would protect me.’
Q. How did you respond?
“Amen.” Because at that point in time – and I said this to her – I was no longer talking to a little girl for sure. I was talking to a woman who had grown to instruct and even lead her father. I was altogether in admiration of the great compliment that she paid me, because I certainly have not been preaching for naught.
Q. How has this changed her?
Oh, my God! It hasn’t. She is who she’s always been. Not in the sense of any radical change. Now, in the sense of an improved self…what I’m trying to suggest is that we don’t have two Brittanys here – that’s what I call her. We have an evolving personality, a person who is growing into a very strong position of leadership. She is more self-evident now and more visible as the person she’s always been and the person she’s been growing to be.