From Slave Ships to the Awakening of Demons
By Bob Gatty
Eight generations ago, a young woman was forced aboard a slave ship bound for America. Her name was Hanna Hemingway, and today her great grandson, seven times removed, Cedric Blain-Spain, is a prominent leader in the Horry County community and Democratic politics.
In an interview commemorating Black History Month, Blain-Spain shared some of his personal family history, discussed some of his experiences with racial prejudices, his dedication to our party, and hopes for the future.
Born in 1829, Mother Hanna Hemingway came to Williamsburg County, Blain-Spain explained, while his ancestors, also arrived aboard a slave ship in Georgetown County, and were given the name Blain. Still today, his family lives on land given to the slaves, land surrounded by two rivers and swampland.
Numbers, Not Names
Cedric has done a great deal of research on his family, tracing its heritage from Africa.
“One thing that brings tears to my eyes every time I’m in the library is we get to a point in our family lineage that we were only known by numbers. Because of slavery and all of this, our history meant nothing to some of the others that purchased us. We were just a number.”
If you are not Black, you have not experienced this. So, as we think about Black History Month and all of the incredible contributions made to our great nation by our Black brothers and sisters and their ancestors, let that sink in.
Known simply as a number on a bill of sale attesting ownership — of you.
Today, this great grandson of slaves is a religious leader, assists in a family funeral business, is a musician, educator, and a prominent and dedicated member of the Horry County community and our party.
Cedric comes from a farming family and as a small boy drove farm equipment outfitted with cinder blocks so his feet could reach the pedals. He became co-chair of the Horry County Yellow Dog Dems as a teenager, and in 2002 at the age of 30 was first elected as HCDP’s State Executive Committeeman, a post he holds to this day.
He’s twice been a candidate for the state legislature and is now considering another run for office, either to the state House of Representatives or Senate or perhaps the seventh congressional district seat currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Rice.
The Demons Awakened
Blain-Spain was stunned by the violence that shook our nation’s capital on January 6 when the Trump-incited mob attacked the joint session of Congress, seeking to disrupt the official certification of Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s election.
While he believes race relations have somewhat improved locally, Blain-Spain said the January 6 insurrection “was another wakeup call, even in the political world when we thought we had advanced to a certain point, but when we’ve had a demagogue in the White House who was racist, a xenophobe and all of that, it woke up those demons. We found out that those demons were just lying dormant in people.”
Blain-Spain said this was evident as Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones attended Trump’s rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, an action that led to calls, that he endorsed, for her resignation. But the subsequent comments from people defending her right to attend the event disappointed him.
“I thought we had advanced,” he said. “There was no election stolen from you (Trump). You are basically saying that 84 million-plus, Blacks and Whites, Asians, whatever, that their vote didn’t count.”
“Incidents like these,” he added, “are a staunch reminder that here in Horry County…over 133,000 (people) voted for Trump…we still have a long way to go.”
Even within our party, Blain-Spain said, there have been instances where racial prejudices have become apparent. And, he noted, at the state level, there has only been one Black chair, Jaime Harrison, when he was elected in 2013. Harrison, of course, unsuccessfully tried to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2020 and is now chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“When Doris Potter Hickman was elected here locally in 2012 to chair the local party, she didn’t get the funds we would normally get from Democrats. That was another wakeup call. They stopped giving to the party. And they didn’t give, and the word came back they didn’t appreciate having a Black chairperson of the Horry County Democratic Party.”
Hope for Future
Blaine-Spain said he was pleased with President Biden’s “Build Back Better” program aimed at improving race relations, including police reform, the economy and jobs, and the environment. He discussed some of the issues he would like to work on if elected to higher office, including support for a $15 per hour minimum wage.
“People need fair wages. They need living wages,” he declared. “They need healthcare. There is so much we can do as elected officials.”
For the future, Blain-Spain sees hope.
“When we realize that everybody is somebody and we continue to create policy that there’s some equity in here so that we’re all helping one to another; when you’re doing well, I’m doing well and we have a better society,” he said.