Bree Newsome

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Bree Newsome
Bree Newsome at NYU Grad Center.jpg
Newsome speaks at Graduate Center, CUNY in 2015[1]
Born (1985-05-13) May 13, 1985 (age 37)
Alma materTisch School of the Arts Edit this at Wikidata

Brittany Ann Byuarm "Bree" Newsome Bass[3] (born May 13, 1985) is an American filmmaker, musician, speaker, and activist from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is best known for her act of civil disobedience on June 27, 2015, when she was arrested for removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house grounds in the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting. The resulting publicity put pressure on state officials to remove the flag, and it was taken down permanently on July 10, 2015.

Early life and education[edit]

Newsome attended Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland. In 2003, she was named one of the "20 Coolest Girls in America" by YM magazine.[4][5] While still in high school, Newsome created a short animated film for which she won a college scholarship. She studied film at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.[6]



Her film Wake has won numerous awards, including the Outstanding Independent Short Film award in the Black Reel Awards of 2012[7] and the Best Short Film at the BET Urban World Film Festival.[8] It has been screened at many film festivals including the 63rd annual Cannes Film Festival in France, the New York International Latino Film Festival, and the Montreal International Black Film Festival. Newsome was the first African-American undergraduate to be nominated for the prestigious Wasserman Award (Spike Lee having won the award as a graduate student).[5]

Newsome said that her experience as a black woman working in the horror and sci-fi film genres inspired her to become an activist. Speaking as part of a panel at Spelman College in 2014, she said: "The space that exists for many of us, as a young black girl, is so extremely limited so that you really can't go very far without being an activist, without being in defiance of something."[9]



Newsome was arrested in July 2013 at a sit-in at the office of then North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis while protesting North Carolina's voter ID law.[10]


On June 27, 2015, she was arrested for taking down the Confederate battle flag that was displayed on the grounds of the South Carolina State House[11][12] in direct action.[13][14] Newsome, aged 30,[15] while scaling the 30-foot (9.1 m) pole, was hailed by policemen who told her to get down. She responded: "In the name of Jesus, this flag has to come down. You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today."[16][17][18] As she lowered the flag and descended into the arms of awaiting policemen, she announced she was prepared to be arrested. Newsome and a man who police said was helping her, James Ian Tyson, were arrested. Onlookers applauded Newsome's efforts as she was being cuffed. As she was led away, she recited the 23rd Psalm from the Bible. The flag was raised again 45 minutes later.[19]

Both activists were charged with defacing monuments on capitol grounds,[20] a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or a maximum jail sentence of three years,[20][21] and taken to Richland County Jail.[22] A judge set a $3,000 bond for each.[22]

Newsome's act of civil disobedience made international headlines and television news. By late afternoon, a crowdfunding campaign had raised over $60,000 for her bail. Filmmaker Michael Moore offered on Twitter to pay her bail and legal fees.[23] Todd Rutherford, the minority leader of the state House of Representatives, offered to represent Newsome in court.[19] NAACP chapter president Reverend Doctor William Barber II applauded Newsome's action, comparing it to those of Rosa Parks and other icons of the Civil Rights Movement.[24] Colette Gaiter, an associate professor of art and social change at the University of Delaware, whose writing was republished by Time magazine, called the act "a significant piece of socially engaged performance art".[25] After her release, Newsome gave numerous magazine interviews and appeared on talk shows such as Democracy Now! and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.[26][27] She also appears in the award-winning 2015 documentary, Bars4justice.[28]

Newsome's actions were criticized by several South Carolina legislators who said that they were in favor of the flag's removal, but illegal actions like Newsome's could hurt their goal to have the flag permanently removed.[29] Calls for the flag's removal had been on the increase since the murder of nine people in the Charleston church shooting of June 17.[12]

Several days after her arrest, Newsome released a statement to Blue Nation Review revealing what propelled her to act.

I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn't sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising.

Not long ago, I had watched the beginning of Selma, the reenactment of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and had shuddered at the horrors of history.

But this was neither a scene from a movie nor was it the past. A white man had just entered a black church and massacred people as they prayed. He had assassinated a civil rights leader. This was not a page in a textbook I was reading nor an inscription on a monument I was visiting.[30]

A vote on the presence of the flag took place among South Carolina's House of Representatives on July 9, which resulted in the final removal of the flag the following Friday.[31] The charges against Newsome and Tyson were later dropped.[32]


As a presidential candidate speaking at a Martin Luther King Day 2016 celebration in Charleston, Hillary Clinton credited Newsome for taking the matter into her own hands by "shimmying up that flagpole" as a step in the process. "Every year, you've gathered right here and said that that symbol of division and racism went against everything Dr. King stood for. We couldn't celebrate him and the Confederacy, we had to choose. And South Carolina finally made the right choice."[33]

In February 2016, Newsome told Ebony magazine that she had been motivated in part by her ancestors having been enslaved and subjected to racial terrorism in South Carolina.[34]


Newsome has continued to speak on race-related issues such as affirmative action. She has given interviews to newspapers and magazines such as The Crisis, Vox, and Marie Claire, made television appearances, and given public speeches at colleges and other venues.[35] Following the deadly terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 17, 2017, Newsome's op-ed piece and video commentary appeared in The Washington Post.[36]

Beginning in 2017, Newsome has worked as an activist for housing rights.[37]


In a October 13, 2021 podcast discussing a book titled Abolition for the People: The Movement for a Future Without Policing and Prisons written by Colin Kaepernick, Newsome argued all law enforcement, criminal justice and prisons should be completely abolished.[38]

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ CUNY DGSC Twitter
  2. ^ Willets, Sarah (August 17, 2017). "Bree Newsome, Who Pulled Down S.C. Confederate Flag in 2015, Salutes Durham Demonstrators". Indy Week. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  3. ^ Doss Helms, Ann (June 28, 2015). "Who is the activist who took down the Confederate flag?". thestate. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  4. ^ Sherman, Natalie (June 27, 2015). "Bree Newsome, who removed Confederate flag, known as principled leader". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Panelists: Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism". The Octavia E. Butler Society. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  6. ^ "About Bree Newsome". Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "The Help Cleans Up At the Black Reel Awards". The Black Reel Awards. February 10, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Watch A Film By Bree Newsome, The Hero Who Took Down The Stars And Bars". io9. June 28, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  9. ^ Contrera, Jessica (June 28, 2015). "Who is Bree Newsome? Why the woman who took down the Confederate flag became an activist". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ Saki Knafo (July 25, 2013). "North Carolina Voter ID Law Targets Student Voters, too". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  11. ^ Nelson, Libby (June 27, 2015). "Watch Bree Newsome climb a 30-foot flagpole to take down South Carolina's Confederate flag". Vox. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Locker, Melissa (June 27, 2015). "Activist Bree Newsome Arrested After Daring South Carolina Confederate Flag Removal". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Caslin, Yvette (June 27, 2015). "Bree Newsome applauded by NAACP president Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II". Rolling Out. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  14. ^ "Aktivistin Bree Newsome holt Südstaatenflagge ein". Der Spiegel. June 27, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2015.(in German)
  15. ^ Blidner, Rachelle (June 27, 2015). "Confederate flag raised again at South Carolina Statehouse after Bree Newsome climbs pole to remove it". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  16. ^ "Thank you, Bree, for removing the Confederate flag". Evangelicals for Social Action. June 27, 2015. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  17. ^ Karlin, Mark (June 30, 2015). "Bree Newsome Brings Wings of Justice to South Carolina by Taking Down Confederate Flag". Truth Out. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  18. ^ "Bree Newsome". AP Archive. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  19. ^ a b Santaella, Tony (June 27, 2015). "Pair released on bond after removing Confederate flag at S.C. Capitol". USA Today.
  20. ^ a b Yuhas, Alan (June 27, 2015). "Activist pulls down Confederate flag in front of South Carolina statehouse". The Guardian. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  21. ^ "South Carolina Code § 10-11-315: Defacing monuments on capitol grounds". Justia. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  22. ^ a b Sammy Fretwell and Sarah Ellis (June 27, 2015). "Confederate flag pulled from SC capitol grounds by activists (+video)". The State. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  23. ^ @MMFlint (June 27, 2015). "Friends of @BreeNewsome - I will pay her bail money or any legal fees she has. Please let her know this. #Charleston #TakeDownTheFlag" (Tweet). Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ Holloway, Lynette. "Here's Everything We Know About Bree Newsome". The Root. Archived from the original on June 30, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  25. ^ Gaiter, Colette (July 1, 2015). "Bree Newsome's Confederate Flag Pole Climb Was an Artistic Statement". Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  26. ^ "Bree Newsome: As SC Lawmakers Debate Removing Confederate Flag, Meet the Activist Who Took It Down". Democracy Now. July 6, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  27. ^ Helms, Ann (July 3, 2013). "Larry Wilmore toasts Charlotte flag activist Bree Newsome with juleps". The Charlotte Observer. Archived from the original on August 15, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  28. ^ "Bars4Justice trailer".
  29. ^ "Woman Arrested for Removing Confederate Flag in SC Statehouse". June 6, 2015.
  30. ^ "Exclusive: Bree Newsome Speaks For The First Time After Courageous Act of Civil Disobedience". Blue Nation Review. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  31. ^ "Confederate flag to be removed from South Carolina capitol". BBC News. July 9, 2015. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015.
  32. ^ "Bree Newsome on Removing the Confederate Flag: "We Attacked This Symbol of Hate With Symbolic Action"". Yahoo News. February 4, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  33. ^ Reilly, Mollie (January 18, 2016). "Hillary Clinton Celebrates Confederate Flag's Removal At MLK Day Ceremony". Huffington Post.
  34. ^ Irwin, Demetria (February 5, 2016). "Bree Newsome on Removing the Confederate Battle Flag". Ebony. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  35. ^ "Black Lives Matter protester arrested as tempers flare outside Bree Newsome lecture". ABC 4 News. February 22, 2017.
  36. ^ Newsome, Bree (August 18, 2017). "Go ahead, topple the monuments to the Confederacy. All of them". The Washington Post.
  37. ^ Mzezewa, Tariro (June 14, 2020). "The Woman Who Took Down a Confederate Flag on What Came Next". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  38. ^ Ep. 185 Abolition for the People with Bree Newsome and Kiese Laymon|url=
  39. ^ "The Complete List of Winners from the 47th NAACP Image Awards". EurWeb. February 6, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016.

External links[edit]