Honoring Black History Month: The Hon. Hope Blackley
Although few realize, the South Carolina Republican Party has the honor of many firsts in Black History. Each week this month, the South Carolina Republican Party will take time out to honor those who have helped shape our party.
African American Republicans have played key roles in South Carolina history, but Spartanburg County Clerk of Court Hope Blackley wants to encourage young African Americans to become a part of its future. Born and raised in Spartanburg, Blackley grew up around Democrats, her parents included. She always thought growing up that “If you’re black, you’re supposed to be a Democrat,” but conceded it was just an understood norm and not an official directive.
Not until a conversation with her then-employer, and now-Congressman, Trey Gowdy, did she begin to associate with the Republican Party. Blackley recalls that while talking about politics in passing, she asked Gowdy why he was a Republican. After explaining the Republican philosophy, he asked why she was not a Republican. Although she had not considered herself to be affiliated with either party, after hearing his impassioned beliefs, she began to evaluate her own views. Soon enough she was attending a local GOP dinner and found herself involved in the Republican party.
A former employee of both Congressman Gowdy and Governor Mark Sanford, Blackley tries not to let race be an issue in her career, yet knows that the odds were against her as an African American woman. She understood that she would have to work harder and that she did. The highlight of her career, so far, is her current position as Clerk of Court, the first African American female to hold this title in our state.
Although a milestone figure in South Carolina history, Blackley’s message has nothing to do with race. “If you work hard and do the right thing, at the end of the day you will be successful,” she said. She hopes to inspire all of today’s youth, including her 13-year-old daughter, to dream bigger, put in the necessary work and achieve great things.
In an era where many expect African Americans to vote Democratic, Hope Blackley challenges the youth of South Carolina to look at the Republican and Democratic party beliefs and make their own decisions just as she defied the norm and made history.