Charleston, hotbed of confederacy, first state to seek secession from the Union, is home to sweet and sour, yet rich history and well preserved architecture. Charleston was a major slave trading port and it is believed that of the estimated 400,000 captive Africans brought into North America, nearly 40% arrived at Sullivan’s Island of Charleston. Additionally, between 1680 and 1720, about 40,000 native men, women and children were sold through the port, often to West Indies and other Southern colonies. The planters felt that the Indian slaves were more likely to escape or revolt so they preferred to sell them and use the proceeds to purchase black slaves. Such is the sad history of slavery. In 2018, the city formally apologized for its role in the American Slave trade after CNN noted that slavery “riddles the history” of Charleston”. Slaves were sold at the arriving ships or at ad hoc gatherings. As per our city tour guide, one of the parking lots we passed by was a prior slave trading post.
Boone Hall Plantation
Our visit to Boone Plantation, one of the oldest plantations still in operation, was illuminating. Like a great deal of architecture around Charleston, Boone Plantation is also a historic site. The most informative were the brick slave cabins located along Slave Street which date between 1790 and 1810. Each cabin displayed video presentations along with other artifacts that told the story of former inhabitants’ lives. There was also a colonial style dwelling of former slave owners.Most fascinating was a Gulaghichi presentation. Most slaves brought here were desendents of West African tribes, near Angola region. They developed their own language and customs that was referred to as Gullah culture. Islanders of Georgia were referred to as Gheechee and together they are referred to as GullahGeechee. A presentation on GullahGeechee culture with songs and drums was a highlight of this tour, where for the first time I learned where Kumbaya came from and what it meant.
The high cost of 19th century slaves and their high rate of return resulted in concentration of wealth where about a hundred interrelated families controlled half of the wealth and the lower half of the population had no wealth at all. That means there were amazing private gardens and almost no public parks. On our city tour, we visited some gorgeous Charleston homes that would evoke for many nostalgia for the antebellum South, for Southern charm and Southern hospitality. The tours focused on gorgeous architecture and fine furniture but always, always, at the back of my mind was the reality of life of enslaved labor that made such high living possible for a few privileged people.
Ghost tours and stories
Charleston and Savannah’s ghost tours and stories combine both history and ghoulish lore. Often narrated with dramatic flair and humor, under these ghost stories lie tragedies of human beings who inhabited the region, destruction during many wars fought here, ghoulish practices of enslavement, duels and other traumas .