Connections; Historical Sites in South Carolina You Don't Know
And welcome as we start a new season here on connections I'm peeing a bit. South Carolina is a relatively small state but we are huge huge on history especially when it comes to the history of Africans forcibly brought to these shores and their descendants. That's because for almost 200 years historians tell us that Charles Town now Charleston was the primary port of call for slave ships and more enslaved Africans passed through Charles Town than any other city in the English colonies. In fact for a time Africans were the majority population in parts of the low country. So with those facts in mind it's understandable that there are African-American historical sites throughout the state that you may not know about. On this edition of connections will travel from the coast to the upstate visiting these sites and to help us with the journey our Miss Janie Harriet Miss Harriet is the vice chair person of the South Carolina African-American heritage commission. And Mr. Damon Fordham Mr. Fordham is an author and historian. Guy thank you so much for being
with us today. You know what I think you know this is going to be a fun show and an informative show and no Janey as vice chair of the. Of the commission. You have lots of information about different sites throughout the state. Yes we do. We really because we are connected to the Department of Archives and History which publishes a book. African-American historic sites in South Carolina. We are always looking for those places that are significant to our history and Damon as a historian you look at a lot of history here in South Carolina. Does a particular cite stand out for you. Well there are a number of them. One of them that I like is the Avery Research Center formally the AB Institute in Charleston because they individuals who are involved with that it used to be a school that was formed by. Former slaves in 1868 and the day and it was about to be torn down however the people who went there decided to save it and now they've turned it into a museum as well as a Research Center for African-American
studies it's a very proactive way of doing things that I hope inspires other people. Absolutely. There are interesting sites throughout the state and we visit a couple of those these first sites are located throughout the state. And one man is making it his business to sleep in as many of them as possible. I'm talking about tiny Barebone houses were enslaved Africans were forced to live. But they were usually out the back of the main house. I'm assuming little structures designed merely to shelter. After long hours of back breaking work. This is where the enslaved went for rest. But not all of the cabins were hidden in the back. These brick cabins on Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant South Carolina are seen even before you see the bakehouse. Joseph McGill has slept here too. McGill is also a Civil War re-enactor. He wears the uniform of the
fifty fourth Massachusetts Regiment. It's titled The slave dwelling project. And what it is is an attempt to bring attention to slape Welling's throughout the United States. I'm a program officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. With that it affords me the opportunity to help people see places and usually the places that I help people say by those iconic places. The House on the Hill if you will. In a lot of times I come across plantations and houses of wood without building. These outbuildings that used to be rolling those of slaves. But. I. Found out that there are not a lot of attention paid to these places. And a lot of times these places have been destroyed. Some time. Willingly. Some time with malice. In an attempt to erase that part of the history. But there are those that are still on the landscape. Some
have been restored but they even more out there that need to be restored. And this let's label him cried because it was just to bring attention to those that have done the right thing and restore these places and interpret and interpret them as such. But it more important to identify those that can use some help and restoration. Effect than 27 today. Actually. Twenty six says Mother's Day of last year about 10 years prior to us I slept in my first at Boone Hall Plantation. As a part of a History Channel documentary. But more recently I was a part of. The. Project at. Magnolia plantation where I'm also employed part time. They restored their cabins and they brought in a team of experts if you will to evaluate the work and I was a part of that team. And evaluating those those dwellings as they were were being restored gave me the idea to blow the dust off this. This
idea was have you been asleep. RAWLINGS I sought permission and they said yes. Well the feeling is there's. Serenity You know you think about the people who actually us spend time in these places and you think about the war. That they had. Beyond the walls of the slave dwellings and you know that within these walls there was that. Was probably the easiest part of their lives although that could be interrupted. At the at the will of the slave masters are the slave owners. But at least within this wall really intent. Was that they could at least lay their head in and get some rest. Miguel's Project is bringing attention to the Camerons many in need of care and restoration. Yes it is about preservation because with the preservation you can you can you can attach the stores too. You can even talk about the people. That. That inhabited these
places and with you. But without the place you know. You're lucky if you can get a sign that said here once stood. You know I know a lot of people think that. You know maybe it's better that we get this. I don't come from that line of thinking. You know I say you know the boy the moon remember the war that we tell the story of fill in the blanks or tell the story that has not been told up until this point. And I told Bradley. I think the better off we as Americans. Can be because we'll be told a story about a scapegoat so we can move forward and talk about those other places that can help African-Americans tell our story beyond sleep. You know we we were. A part of this. Of this American We we we help build the spreads. And help telling that story. Of us building America. What better place to start than the slave boat. Talking with Mr. McGill on his experience of sleeping in the
enslaved persons quarters. I get the impression that he experienced something emotionally. Do you hear people talk about that or have either of you visited the slave cabins. Well I've visited several of them specifically the ones over at Francis Marion University. And then Joe was sleeping in a one down in Laurel Richland County which he ended up not sleeping in because it was he was just not going to sleep there. And I was there for that one. But this is a personal thing with him it's very personal Joe is from Williamsburg County and of course he's a historian so this is very near and dear to his heart. You said you visited the ones at Francis Marion did you have any kind of emotional connection as an individual or historian. You know and I keep telling people I'm really not a historian I fell into this work. You know quite haphazardly. And I really did not also
visited the can the cabins in the plantation where Michelle Obama's grandfather lived. And they said that he they weren't sure but they felt that the one that they took us to might have been the one that he lived in there. Yes. And I don't know if it's this whole you know I'm a child of the 60s. You know I'm a one of those rebels the whole thing just kind of turns me off bits to see how people actually live. So I guess even emotional in terms of anger is might be what I felt because I'm sometimes a very angry person. What about you Damon. Have you visited any of the cabin. Well in fact I used to give tours that the ones that own hall about 10 or so years ago when I worked at Drayton Hall where they did some renovation work on what the remains of those and I think what Mr. McGill is doing is a very healthy thing for us as a people and as a country because for many years African-Americans refused to
acknowledge such things and to go to these sites for precisely the reasons of not wanting to feel anger and so forth. But you see how in Europe the Jewish people are going to Dakar and book involved in their concentration camps and so forth and other groups are going to the sites of their former oppression so I think it's important that African-Americans do that so the to help us heal and become whole as a people. All right let's move on we are back to fast forward in history to the 1930s a time in South Carolina when black people were not allowed on the beaches where whites frequent it. So a group of black men got together to purchase some South Carolina ocean front property. It was an opportunity for blacks being a judge or a janitor to enjoy one of God's greatest gifts. I think that when you listen to the stories from the old timers which is really very special to do you hear a lot of wonderfully funny stories about how lively The beach was if it time that you could hear the
music of the day drifting all over the beach. There were hotels restaurants all just it was a lively place to be. You talk about how the farm trucks would come with a lot of laborers on the back being dropped off for the week and all dressed up to come to the beach for Atlantic Beach South Carolina development. Love what you see on all the parts of the Grand Strand is in the distance. Well best not necessarily a bad thing. The leaders here say that while they are working hard to kickstart development they are determined to preserve the uniqueness the essence of Atlantic Beach. Starting back in 2001 we got the landowners together to talk about. What was their vision for Atlantic Beach. They were clear that they wanted to remain an independent municipality. They wanted to embrace its Gullah Geechee history and to really bring the life back small businesses unique businesses along the Grand Strand a piece of heritage and culture that doesn't exist on the
Grand Strand that would be unique and one of the most positive aspects of our culture. You can have what we call controlled development. You'll help to have a run a way development a flag. We have we are very fortunate because. We can see what have happened to the rest of the grandchildren the north and the South in Atlanta. So therefore we can be a fair fair course as a pub bet. We are open to any developer. Who you can bring to the table. What complies with our comprehensive plan or or our desire here to to make facilities available for our people that have not been made available at Landtag beach the black hole. It has only about 500 year round residents and four crew streets but this small oceanfront town represents big history it was the only beach black people could go to for generations before integration. Here in South Carolina it was
charted as a town in 1966 but came into being much sooner. Approximately 10 men who came together back in the 1930s and established Atlantic Beach most of them were either affiliated with this president up one of the HBC Hughes Medical Doctors and one laborer named George Tyson. They came together and they began to acquire land piece by piece until and very quietly until they had put it together. Two beaches that landed beach and pool beach. Binny Webb is the interim city manager for Atlantic Beach. He says the land of Egypt has risen as the people. We are friends issues they go through here years ago that pretty much needed resources to operate the government now and it has to be a very very good fundamentalists. We don't get the tourist dollars that on the tour
and dispel this here we don't get the federal money that some neighbor has and we don't have the protection of the revenue from the good of our lack of commercial development or lack of residential development so we're in a state of flux a state of transition. So I think in the next year or two will make it a political land each which was known and still is known as the black. L.A. beaches mostly residential with few businesses. I asked Mr. Webb. What's here to attract tourist today I think the biggest brawls and then just it has one of the most beautiful ocean views on the ground. If you go to 30 of 34 37 29 there. You will see some of the most beautiful warm ocean area. The second draw is the history of what happens to people is when they forget their history and then
it is history so bridge so rich because of what it stood for unlistenable for years it was the only example that African-Americans had looked to only beat and I think just from a historical perspective though people who came here in the 40s and 50s and 60s and even the 70s. Ought to have the best interest in Atlantic Beach surviving and not only survive but prosper. Now to me and to most of the people that came here in the fall is fifty six it is very important it's very important because of what it stood for especially when you think about the soldiers that were coming back from war too and they wanted to go to the good know the beaches South Carolina. But at the end when you think about the young African-American and even old America in the aftermath of this war to get the ocean experience to to put their feet in a war and and run down on the sea shore and walk under the
patio at length he was the only place that African-Americans go. Adland beach the Black Pearl. Can it hold on to its illustrious past and move successfully into a vibrant future. It's a work in progress. You know from talking with people down in Atlantic Beach we see that Atlanta beach is still transitioning it's still trying to come into its own as a commercial entity. But they still want to keep their own uniqueness if you will. What can you say Damon about the history of Atlantic Beach and where it is today. Well it's the history of it is extremely important because I was involved a project with them as Sherry Suttles down there in 2002 to do oral histories with people there and I learned a lot of fascinating things I learned for one thing that Sam Cooke was there shortly before he was shot in 1964 the great socially conscious entertainer of
his time. And I learned about that he was making some plans on doing some pretty big things there and also that he saw Jenkins the man who many consider to be the Martin Luther King of South Carolina. He owned a number of properties there as well as a hotel in which he leased people and such so at Lenox beach historically is important because it showed what the people could do once they got together and put their minds to it at that time and it's important that the young people today who may not be aware of that legacy be aware of it to understand their full potential. Yeah it's a beautiful spot and I really hope all the residents there can pull together and get it going the way they want to. All right. He's a superstar when it comes to educators having impact of the lives of many great people including Martin Luther King. He was born in South Carolina and now his hometown is recognizing him as a hero. Come with us to Greenwood South Carolina the birthplace of Dr. Benjamin.
Greenwood South Carolina located in the northwestern part of the state is almost equal distant between two of the state's largest metropolitan areas Greenville and Columbia. Greenwood has laid claim to having the widest Main Street giving us now. I don't know if that's proved to be a tourist draw but now they may just have something. Did you know that famed educator Benjamin E. Mays was born in Greenwood South Carolina. For those of you amazed to have come out of. South Carolina. To have given. Intellectual birth. Not only to Martin Luther King but. Of the Rhone Bennett. Maynard Jackson. There was a whole generation of Morehouse men. That Changed America because of. The teachings and
preachings of Benjamin Elijah by. The cabin where Mays was born has been lovingly restored and prominently placed is decorated with many period pieces old tools even an outhouse and a cotton field cover the ground. Dr. may have been born in Greenwood County. He went to school down in South Carolina State in high school but he walked to a one room school like the school if we have it. He left here and went to South Carolina State and from there he went to. Virginia. I think I'm with you in Union University and then up to Bates College in Maine. Not to make you know one among them and he came to this particular dedicating school venue in the main hospital. And I felt. That I was so inspired something he said about. In about it. Can be nobody. But everybody can be somebody. And that kind of
tells some just kind of. It's been driving me for almost 10 years. Dr. Mays really revolutionize higher education as he brought a focus not only on cultivating intelligence but cultivating character and leadership. And as the students of Morehouse who learned under Dr. Maizes from Martin Luther King and Julian Barnes to so many others they helped to transform America and all that one man with his vision and his staff. Mays became president in 1040 at Morehouse young Martin Luther King arrived one thousand forty four. So Mays had only been president for four years and young Martin King was only 15 years old when he arrived at her house. There was an early admission program because so many young men had been drafted and were serving in the military fighting the war. And so they admitted younger students. And so there was young Martin Luther King at an impressionable period in his life really regarding Mays as a role model.
Dr. Maizes hit him I think. And sent him up to Connecticut to work. In the tobacco field. He figured if you were going to lead. People and if you're going to help the world had to understand the lives of these gods and you had to know and respect. Working people. Dr. Joseph Patton played a prominent role in the story and relocating of the maze home site to the national treasures. Thousands of young men that have come through. Morehouse College under his children and they too will bring their children and the same with Dr. Mays came from. Also. I think it would be good for the folks in the lamp because look what what a giant economic I mean every seed from Greenwood God. Dr. Maizes such an inspiring figure and I don't think a lot of people
really know and awful lot about his life and especially that he was born right here in South Carolina I. What do you know about him Janey. Well I don't know that much about Dr. Mays except you know his education the war. What I do know is that there was a big push or by Miss Molly Hart who was a member of the South Carolina African-American heritage commission. Her husband was at the tongue I'm the mayor. 96 where the house was originally sitting in a field all covered. The owners didn't want anything to do with it. And Molly Hart almost singlehandedly worked with the community. And other agencies to help save that piece of history. And I also know that Emory Campbell who was the former director of the Penn Center was very close to Dr. Mays and when he retired from pencil enter I presented him with a a drawing
print of the Benjamin E. Mays house not knowing his connection to Dr. Mays. And right there in front of all those people he cried because he didn't know. I didn't know his connection. But that is truly Benjamin Mays is a testament. To education in this state and abroad as far as African-Americans are concerned he talked a lot of people a lot of people's lives. They when you are obviously impressed by the man. Yes I wrote a chapter about Dr. Mays in my second book Voices of black South Carolina and the most inspiring thing about that is that when Benjamin Mays was four years old and 1898 he witnessed the race riot known as the Phoenix massacre. In South Carolina that year of 1898. And he witnessed some Knight Riders forces father to bow down in front of them as a child he said he would want to grow up to do something about those conditions. Well the irony of irony is that when he was the president of Morehouse College and also a professor there he talked about these things with a
young man who was very inspired by him and that young man turned out to be Martin Luther King himself. So I think that the irony of that is one of the most inspiring things about Dr. Benjamin Mays. Absolutely. Absolutely. So Damon just being a historian. Do you think that that South Carolina is indeed a hotbed if you will of African-American historical sites. Most certainly it is but see the problem there number of problems with that in that one of the main problems is that the best stories often known to humanity are often forever lost of the graveyards because history is a very incomplete science in that so much that has happened that has not been recorded that was especially true. With African-Americans in the state because for so long the people were just basically dealing with day to day survival so much that a lot of them just simply did not see the importance of going back to the past which in many places was just too painful for them to deal with. Yeah so we're just now realizing the importance of this and while there's still people like Miss Harriet who's seen such things the Rosenwald schools important we get these
- Producing Organization
- South Carolina Educational Television Network
- Contributing Organization
- South Carolina ETV (Columbia, South Carolina)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This episode focuses on South Carolina?s connection to slavery since it was a primary port of call for slave ships. The show begins with an interview with Jannie Harriot of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission and historian Damon Fordham. The interviewees discuss places connected with South Carolina?s slavery past. Next is a segment on the shelters enslaved Africans were forced to live in, focusing on The Slave Dwelling Project, created by Joseph McGill, program officer for the National Trust of Historic Preservation. The next segment looks at Atlantic Beach and the balance between development and historic preservation happening there. The next segment explores Greenwood, South Carolina?s connection to civil rights activist and educator Benjamin Mays along with the preserved sites that tell his story.
- Copyright 2001 South Carolina ETV Commission
- Media type
- Moving Image
Host: Bennett, P.A.
Producing Organization: South Carolina Educational Television Network
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
South Carolina Network (SCETV) (WRLK)
Identifier: 143157 (SCETV Reel Number)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-41-225b0636.h264.mov (mediainfo)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-41-225b0636.j2k.mxf (mediainfo)
Generation: Preservation Master
Identifier: cpb-aacip-41-225b0636.mpeg2.mxf (mediainfo)
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- Chicago: “Connections; Historical Sites in South Carolina You Don't Know,” 2011-09-23, South Carolina ETV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 25, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-41-225b0636.
- MLA: “Connections; Historical Sites in South Carolina You Don't Know.” 2011-09-23. South Carolina ETV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 25, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-41-225b0636>.
- APA: Connections; Historical Sites in South Carolina You Don't Know. Boston, MA: South Carolina ETV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-41-225b0636