Brittany “Bree” Newsome became a social media rock star Saturday in Internet warp speed, of course, after she clambered up a flagpole outside the South Carolina Statehouse and removed the Confederate flag at the break of dawn.
The flag was hoisted just hours after Newsome’s effort, which took place about 6:30 a.m. EDT. She and a compatriot, James Tyson, 30, both of Charlotte, N.C., were arrested and charged with defacing a monument. Tyson was hit with the same charge for assisting her. A #freebree crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo raised $97,446 within 23 hours.
Now everyone wants to know about Newsome, whose heroic action was likened by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, to those of Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and other civil rights icons.
“[Newsome] stands in a long tradition … Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and more recently hundreds of protesters in Moral Monday … were all considered, at first, criminals for their acts of conscience,” he said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “We stand in solidarity with her, and the deep commitment which she has to justice, love, and true interracial community. We stand with her as she is our family.”
Newsome, 30, initially described by the ColorOfChange.org as an educator, is an artist and filmmaker who is active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Her historic action came a day after President Barack Obama delivered a poignant talk about the indelible stain of racism in America and how the Confederate flag remains a symbol of slavery and oppression. The talk came during a moving eulogy at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was gunned down with eight others by a racist terrorist during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Newsome is a graduate of New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, where she received a B.F.A. in film and television. While at NYU, she wrote and directed a humorous public service announcement called “Your Ballot, Your Voice” encouraging young-voter turnout. The PSA won the grand prize in a competition sponsored by Tisch and MTV. Her short film Wake won several awards on the film festival circuit and recently made its national television debut on the ASPiRE TV network, notes Newsome’s website.
As a high school student at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Md., she was known as Brittany and graduated in 2003. While there, she created an animated short The Three Princes of Idea, which earned her a $40,000 scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, according to her bio.
She was active in student government, serving as president of her class for her first three years and president of the student body as a senior, according to the high school yearbook.
“It stood out how smart she was,” Ryan Fox, 33, of Columbia, who graduated ahead of Newsome, told the Baltimore Sun.