A Silent Strength



my aunt Sarah Mae Flemming the trailblazer
I've been blessed to have grown up surrounded by an amazing group of women! All, who in their own way, paved the future for me...sometimes unbeknownst to them. Women, like my mother Mary, who made everyone she came in contact with feel as if they were the most important person in the room. To this day, I still consider her the greatest woman I ever met! And my grandmother Caroline, who by herself, raised and supported my mother and her 10 siblings(including infant twins), after my grandfather was tragically killed. And I can't forget my sisters, aunts, cousins and the countless other women God has allowed me to cross paths with.

 I shared with you a few weeks ago about my lovely mother HERE. And as we’ve closed out another “Black History Month” and have entered into "National Women's Month", it would be remiss of me to not mention a woman who was a true trailblazer, not only for myself, but for the nation. Yes, I said the nation!

I don’t know what it is about the women in my family, but they never felt the need to brag, they never tooted their own horn and never put the spotlight on themselves. I guess my job is to do it for them, huh! This post is dedicated to my aunt Sarah Mae Flemming-Brown(my dad’s oldest sister), whom we affectionately called “Aunt Kitty”, she was truly our family heroine, a trailblazer in her own right! Here’s her story……….




Civil Rights Leader

Sarah Mae Flemming, the forerunner of Rosa Parks, for many years remained an unsung hero in the annals of civil rights. It was a little-publicized civil-rights case involving public transportation in Columbia, SC that helped Rosa Parks and her lawyers prevail in a lawsuit challenging segregation on buses in Montgomery, Alabama…this case became the Flemming legacy.

Flemming was born on June 28th, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the eldest of Mack and Rosetta Flemming’s seven children. The granddaughter of slaves, Flemming grew up on her family’s own land - 130 acres, five miles north of what is now downtown Eastover. She would eventually die of a heart attack on that same land, just shy of her 60th birthday.

Flemming slipped into history the morning of June 22, 1954 when she, a black maid, took a front seat on the then segregated city bus operated by South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G). The line dividing the races on South Carolina buses served as one of the most visible daily reminders of segregation. Enforced by bus drivers vested with the powers of a deputy sheriff, the line was inscribed into a body of state laws that had for three generations separated blacks and whites. On Columbia buses, the color line shifted, depending on whether more black or white people were riding. One thing remained firm - whites never sat behind blacks.

On that historic morning Flemming took a seat in what she deemed an appropriate area. After taking her seat, a white Columbia bus driver humiliated the 20 year old black woman from Eastover, blocking her with his arm and accusing her of sitting in the “whites-only” part of the bus. She was ordered by the bus driver to give up her seat in the front of the bus. She refused and the bus driver called the police. Sarah was arrested and subsequently sued South Carolina Electric and Gas, the owners and operators of the bus system in Columbia. She also claimed that she was hit by the driver as she exited the bus. This incident, occurring 17 months before Rosa Parks took her stand against segregation on city buses in Montgomery, Alabama- Flemming challenged segregation on SCE&G buses in Columbia. Sarah Mae did not reach the fame of Mrs. Parks, but she did find success in her fight for equality for African Americans and all citizens of the United States.

Sarah Flemming claimed her rights under the fourteenth amendment of the United States constitution had been violated by the driver’s actions. The 14th Amendment states that any person born in the United States is automatically a citizen of this country. This amendment states all citizens have the right to due process under the law and gives all citizens equal protection. It goes on to state that no citizen should be deprived of their life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.

Phillip Whittenburg, a young white lawyer, originally took the case. Later he was joined by Thurgood Marshall and Matthew Perry. The NAACP sponsored the suit on behalf of Mrs. Flemming. Although the US Supreme Court had already ruled that segregation on city buses was against the law, the South Carolina Public Service Commission decided to uphold the South Carolina state law which supported segregation. The Flemming case was brought before Justice Timmerman, the judge for the eastern district of South Carolina, on February 16, 1955. Although the suit was based on the same principles as that of Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that separate was not inherently equal, the judgment declared that Flemming’s claim failed to meet the requirements for relief and the case was dismissed. Justice Timmerman put forth that the Plessy v. Ferguson decision held that separation on public transportation was legal. The fight for equality on South Carolina buses did not end there. 

Mrs. Flemming, the NAACP, and her lawyers appealed the ruling and the decision was reversed. The State Court of Appeals stated in their December 14, 1955 decision that Brown vs. Board did indeed cross all levels of society, including public transportation. The justices stated that "separate but equal" could not be fair and equal treatment of citizens in the United States. This outcome was not the end of the road however, as South Carolina Electric and Gas appealed the State Court’s decision. The US Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal on April 23, 1956 and the US Supreme Court upheld the Appeals Court decisions on November 29, 1956.  The ruling was widely ignored, but is cited in the decision on the far-better publicized Rosa Parks case - which led to the end of segregated buses.

In 1955, Flemming’s win in court was big news in black newspapers across the country. The bigger news is that this young woman, in the face of southern Jim Crow politics took a step that forever changed the face of civil rights in the South. 


An amazing story isn't it? I think the MOST amazing thing is, I didn’t even know about any of this until after my aunt passed away! By the way, I was married with children of my own! I told you that the women in my family didn’t toot their own horn, but really Aunt Kitty, you never even mentioned this story not once(well at least not to me)…go figure, lol! And yes, that was THE Thurgood Marshall, first African-American Supreme Court justice, who was one of my aunt’s lawyers. As you can imagine, I am one proud niece. Her story sounds like a scene from the movie “The Help”. Hey I may someday write a screenplay, who knows! ;-) She is definitely our family heroine, a true inspiration, one of many who silently fought behind the scenes so we ALL could have equality. Thank you Aunt Kitty for trailblazing the way by showing us all how to do ourselves well! A big horn toot for you!!

*UPDATE*: Since writing this post over three years ago, there's an update to my aunt's story. I'm so proud to say that as of June 28, 2013 (on what would have been her 80th birthday), Aunty Kitty was honored by the city of Columbia, SC with a street naming ceremony. Now the corner of Main and Washington Streets in downtown Columbia, SC is officially named "Sarah Mae Flemming Way". Aunt Kitty...your legacy lives on!!









All Rights Reserved copyright© 2012-2016 “Prowess and Pearls” by Michell Pulliam







73 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle! Wow! thank you so much for taking the time to share this amazing story. What a previllage it is to walk where we are, it is because great women like Rosa PArks and your aunt fought and sacrificed for us. Blessing friend!

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    1. Hi Sara! Yes we are blessed aren't we, to have such great ladies pave the path for us! Thanks for stopping by...have a blessed evening!;-)

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    2. Michelle i knew this about kitty. My grandpa bo always talked about it.. They were really proud of her.. I asked her about it once and she kind of smiled and eaved me away... I loved kitty and john... Spent many days at their house and in their yard while my grandpa and ur dad worked at the garage.. Sweet memories

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    3. Michelle i knew this about kitty. My grandpa bo always talked about it.. They were really proud of her.. I asked her about it once and she kind of smiled and eaved me away... I loved kitty and john... Spent many days at their house and in their yard while my grandpa and ur dad worked at the garage.. Sweet memories

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    4. Hey Keisha! Yeah Aunt Kitty was a sweetie and very humble! We kids didn't know the full story until after she died. I remember those days...sweet memories indeed lady! Thanks so much for sharing and reminding me of the good ole days! Blessings to you!

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  2. Oh my goodness! That is amazing! You should be an extra proud niece..and that deserves many tooted horns:) Thanks for linking up!

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    1. Hi Mariel...thank you! I AM very proud to be her niece! Yep, I'd say it's deserving of many tooted horns, lol! Have a blessed evening!;-)

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  3. I love this history lesson. It must feel incredible that you have such a wonderful piece of history. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hey April! It is awesome to have someone close to me be such an important part of history! She was truly an inspiration! Thanks for dropping by lady...have a blessed evening!;-)

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  4. Hello, that is awesome!!! I love that, it is so great to have those memories to share ever so precious.You have your own part of history for your children to share and pass on to their children.
    Http://fitandbeyond40.com

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    1. Hi Margaret! Memories are something that can't be taken away. I feel blessed to be able to pass it on for generations to come. Thanks so much for dropping by...have a blessed week! ;-)

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  5. Wow, Michell! You should be so proud. I can't conceive of the struggles women like your aunt faced - the struggle for basic, human rights. I'm thankful for her strength, as well as the strength which so many like her demonstrated. Thanks for sharing.

    XOXO,
    Meredith

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    1. I am Meredith...thank you! We are so blessed to have had women like my aunt, who fought so we all could enjoy freedom. Thanks so much for dropping by Meredith...have a blessed day my friend!;-)

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  6. Wow, this is truly amazing! Thanks for sharing. I never heard of this, but I am so glad that you blessed us with this important part of our history. I will definitely share this story. I needed this when our church did the part on Rosa Parks for Black History Month.

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    1. Hi Trinity! There are so many more unsung heroins/heroes like my aunt who have gone unnoticed. My aunt just happens to have a niece who likes to talk, lol. Thanks for your willingness to share her story. Thanks for dropping by...have a blessed day!

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  7. WOW!!!! Amazing story and what a blessing to have her a part of your family legacy!!!! Truly amazing!!!!!!! I am proud to say her neice is my friend!!! ( so yes I will be tooting your horn!!)

    Thank you for sharing. I have been blessed to read her story!!

    (((hugs))))
    Stacey

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  8. Hahahaa Stacey! I guess that makes you family girl! ;-)) Thanks so much...it is a blessing to have had her as an aunt. Thanks for stopping by lady...have a blessed week! ;-)

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  9. Thank you Aunt Kitty! What amazing courage! Thank you Michell, for sharing such a wonderful part of your heritage. Aunt Kitty's heroism set precedence for Rosa Park's victory. What an inspiration! Continued Blessings.

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    1. Thank you Hope! Everyone had a part to play, no matter how big or small. They had one purpose in mind; to see that every person had a fair shot. Yes, she is everyone's aunt.;-) Continued blessings to you as well! ;-)

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  10. Michell, this post is simply amazing!

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  11. Inspiring story Michell. It is a beautiful attestation to the fact that no force can stop a woman who is determined to rise above the shackles that keep her bound. God bless all those strong women in your family. You are blessed.

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    1. Awww, thank you Unyime! So true...where there's a will, there's a way! Thanks for dropping by, have a blessed evening!;-)

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  12. Hi Michell, I've always heard there were people who paved the way for our most celebrated Rosa Parks. What an awesome story to share as we equate the Parks incident as the first. Your Aunt is most worthy of being recognized and what a lesson in humility to us as readers knowing that she never even shared this with you. Lovely closing of Black History Month!

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    1. Thanks Joi! Yes, that was the type of person she was. She gave of herself, worked behind the scenes, thought nothing of it and wanted nothing in return. She definitely is a great example of humility. Thanks for dropping by Joi...have a blessed week!;-)

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  13. OMGOSH MICHELL!!!! This is absolutely AMAZING!!!! I am just freaking out about everything here- your incredibly courageous and humble Aunt, your honorable legacy of women, the story that should be shouted from the MOUNTAIN TOPS!!! Just blown away. SO cool. Sharing!!!

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  14. Awwww...thank you Chris!! It is an amazing story isn't it? I really would love to see her story made into a movie...how neat would that be? It's left up to us who are left to tell the story. Thanks so much lady for your support! XOXOXO

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    1. Thank you Trendy and thanks for stopping by! Have a blessed evening!

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  16. Stopping by to say hello and follow from the I love My Online Friends GFC hop! http://www.bullocksbuzz.com

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and following...headed over to your blog now! Have a blessed evening!

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  17. I have two family history/genealogy blogs and we are celebrating National Women's History Month throughout the month of March. It is titled Fearless Females. As I was reading your blog I though how much your post fit in with our blogging prompts.

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    1. Wow, how exciting! I would love to link this post up to it Betty, just tell me where and when! Thanks for stopping by...have a blessed evening!

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  18. Wow I didn't know about Sarah Flemming, either--I only knew of Rosa Parks. Thanks for the education!

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    1. You're so welcome, many people haven't either! Thanks for dropping by...have a blessed evening!

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  19. Thank You for telling such an amazing story. Super Cool.

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    1. Thanks so much Patrick! The more I think about it...it is amazing! ;-) Have a blessed evening!

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  20. Thank you for linking up to The Great Blog Train! We loved having you! And you helped us have a successful third run down the tracks!

    Helen@blueeyedbeautyblogg.blogspot.com
    Angie@godsgrowinggarden.com
    Marci@stonecottageadventures.com

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    1. You're so welcomed! Have a wonderful weekend! ;-)

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  21. What an amazing and inspiring story! And a beautiful family heritage to pass onto your own kids. I have been here before, but I just love your blog--it is beautiful and you have created such a sweet space here.

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    1. Awww, how sweet...thank you so much Meredith for your kind words!! Thanks for dropping by...have a blessed evening!! ;-)

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  22. Amazing and, to me, it shows that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us, and can use us in the smallest ways, with our apparent small gifts and talents. I believe that if we are doing, living, seeking that which is righteous, Heavenly Father will use our offering to his glory and our transformation ~wonderful post!

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    1. Thank you so much!! Yes, He puts us in His Body(and throughout the earth) as it pleases Him. It's our job to walk it out. Thanks for dropping by...have a wonderful weekend! ;-)

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  23. Just stopping by from the Sunday Let's Get Social Blog Hop to follow on GFC!

    Hope you have a fantastic weekend :)

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    1. Hi Shauna! Thanks so much for dropping by and following...headed over to your blog now! May you have a wonderful rest of your weekend as well!

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  24. What a great story! It's too bad you weren't able to talk to her about it when she was alive.

    http://heidiswanderings.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks Heidi! Ikr...I would've LOVED to have her tell me the story in her own words. Thanks for visiting...have a great day!;-)

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  25. What a fantastic story! I am so grateful to read, continually, of women who change the world for better. In April on my blog I feature women in literary history. I try to have as diverse a group as possible - so discovering women others don't know well - is so appealing to me. I am visiting from SITS Saturday Sharefest - I am so glad to have found you & hope hope hope we can stay in touch!

    this is my post for this week's Saturday Sharefest I'll be looking for you in the future!

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    1. Thank you Julie...so glad you found me also!! I'm sure we will...looking forward to getting to know! Thanks again...headed over to your blog now! May you have a wonderful rest of your day! ;-)

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  26. What a wonderful history lesson. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things hop xo

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  27. Thank you Katherine and you're so welcome!! Have a wonderful week!;-)

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  28. What a wonderful event to have in your family history. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thanks so much Robin and thanks for stopping by...have a lovely weekend!

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  29. Visiting from SITS...I got goosebumps reading your story. It's so amazingly inspiring, yet today we think little of how much people in the past have had to fight for civil rights. In fact, one of the best college courses I've ever taken (and I've taken a lot!) is the one on civil rights. Eye-opening! We take a lot for granted--BUT, we still have work to do! Thank you for sharing this piece of history--it's unbelievable how much courage some people had to make a difference in the world. And I see you're doing it too, in your own way, with your website! I hope you write a screenplay or a book on your aunt's story--the world could always use another heroine story. Just as an aside, I think parenting plays a huge role in how you perceive others. My mother used to say, there are all kinds of skin colors, and just like there are brown eggs and white eggs, they are all the same underneath--we're all human beings. I grew up with parents who were accepting of everyone--race, color, gender, sexuality, handicap, etc. And when I took the class on civil rights, even though I had heard of the struggles, I had never fully appreciated them before. That class did more for my intelligence than any other one I've taken. In fact, they should offer it to all students.

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    1. Awww...thank you so much Nicole for your encouraging words, they're greatly appreciated! I would love to have a book or screenplay written about her. She was definitely a magnificent woman! Your mother is a wise woman. I so agree with you...if we were to learn about everyone's history, society would be a much better place! Thanks again for dropping by and visiting...have a wonderful weekend! :D

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  30. What an incredible story, and what a strong woman your aunt was. I can only imagine what the experience must have been like for her, and the courage it took to fight it and take it so far. Thank you for sharing the story, and happy SITS day!

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    1. Thank you so much Bev!! She was definitely a courageous woman! Thanks so much for visiting from SITS! Have a lovely weekend! :-D

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  31. Wow. What an inspirational story. What a blessing it is for the younger generations in your family that you've taken the time to not only document it, but to share it with all of us.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Happy SITS day!

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    1. Thank you so much! She was definitely our family's inspiration. So ironic that you mentioned the younger generation, as her 1st great-grandchild was born yesterday! Thanks again...may you have a wonderful weekend!

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    2. Congratulations on the newest addition to your family. I find nothing more uplifting than seeing faith in God through a child's eyes.

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    3. Thank you! Nothing like it! ;-)

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  32. My grandfather is my hero even though he is dead. He's the one that always accepted me as I was and taught me so many important things about life. He never complained about his treatment but did tell me two stories about life as a "breed" as he was called publicly as a young man. If you have a story, write it. Enjoy your SITS Day.

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    1. Yes, we should all write it. History is so important and we can't ever forget those who came before us! Your grandfather sounds like he was an awesome man!! Thanks for stopping by...have a lovely weekend!!

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  33. This is amazing! I can't believe she never mentioned this little story to you. You should totally write a book and a screenplay.

    Oh, and I had an Auntie Kitty too! :)

    Happy SITS Day!

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    1. Hi Jennifer...IKR(no one ever made a big deal about it)...go figure! I am seriously considering it! I think Kitty is such a cool name...I've always thought Miss Kitty from "Gunsmoke" was so cool, lol! Thanks so much for stopping by...have a wonderful weekend!

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  34. Very impressive and how proud you must be! And it's the ones who are the most impressive that don't toot their own horns - their example(s) speak for themselves.

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  35. Thank you! You're so right...they are definitely the most impressive ones! Blessed are the meek...for they shall inherit the earth! Thanks for stopping by...have a lovely weekend! :D

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  36. What an amazing (& cool) story! happy SITS day, late.

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    1. Hi Jean...thanks so much!! No problem...I'm still celebrating, lol! Thanks so much for stopping by...have a wonderful evening! ;-)

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  37. This site give me good effort and give for all reading judi sabung ayam online

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