Visit Dates: October 4-7, 2019
We followed US 17 down the coast from Wilmington, North Carolina to our next stop in Charleston, South Carolina. Along the way we saw many roadside stands selling Sweetgrass Palmetto baskets and objects like we saw during our stop in Wilmington.
One of our daughters-in-law went to College in Charleston so we were excited to see a part of her history. The old part of town is on a peninsula formed by the Copper and Ashley rivers as they make their way to the Atlantic Ocean.
We stayed at an AirBnB on Spring street which was close to the old downtown area with plenty of shops and historical sites. It wasn’t unbearably hot so we were able to walk most everywhere in the core.
One day we did hop in the car to drive over the US 30 bridge to see the McLeod Plantation. We signed up for a tour but had some time to wander the grounds. I wandered down to Wappoo Creek to catch a view of the sites on the north bank.
Still wandering the grounds we saw the classic oak tree arch draped with Spanish Moss along the beautiful pathway.
Turning around we saw the main house framed by the tree.
We then headed to the tour meeting point. Our tour guide was a young woman who was very knowledgable about the history of the area as well as the plantation itself. Before we started she told us that she would be sharing the real story of plantation life, not the glamorized version we may think of when we see these stately homes. She invited people to leave if they weren’t comfortable with that. No one left.
While the antebellum lives of the owners’ extended family might have been stately and serene, the lives of the dozens of enslaved people, who made that life possible, was anything but. Our tour guide called this place by its rightful name: a slave labor camp. Plantation owners throughout the South waged a war of terror on the enslaved people. A slave caught learning to read or write was a crime just shy of killing the owner and dealt with accordingly. In addition to the whippings and other tortures, keeping the enslaved people uneducated, and separating families and loved ones was a means of maintaining absolute control.
Children – even babies – could be separated from their parents in the blink of an eye. The enslaved people developed a culture of mutual support to help manage the deprivation they were faced with.
The one-room houses of the enslaved people stand in stark contrast to the lavish mansion where the owners lived.
One of the children’s’ jobs was to make the bricks for fireplaces mansion foundations. Our guide pointed out this brick bearing an enslaved child’s fingerprints that stands in mute testimony to the life he or she led. I’ve circled the fingerprints in read. Click on the image to get a better view.
As we had after visiting the the Holocaust Museum and African American Museum in Washington, DC and the Fredericksburg battle site in Virginia we were silenced by the cruelty that man is capable of.
On another outing through Charleston we stopped at the site of one of the first slave markets. I think the lives of the kidnapped and enslaved peoples lives can be represented in one image Linda took at the slave market museum: enslaved peoples’ “living” conditions on a slave ship.
This can only be done by people who don’t think their captives are people. We wouldn’t treat our animals this way. Horrible, just horrible.
We tried to shake off these images and take in some of Charleston’s beauty. I had heard of Spanish Moss but had never seen it. It cascaded down from trees all around the slave labor camp. A couple of pictures above show the moss on the trees. Here is a closeup.
The heat and humidity of the south makes for beautiful gardens.
On our last night in Charleston we ate the Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar. We had a table overlooking the Copper River. What a fabulous dinner. I had shrimp and grits made with tasso ham gravy. It was incredibly rich and was the best meal I had on our entire trip.
We walked off dinner by strolling on the walkway along the river down to the bottom of the peninsula. The Pineapple Fountain is beautiful.
Looking out across the water you can barely make out the island where Fort Sumter was built. This is where the Civil War started. After walking down to the Battery at the bottom of the peninsula. We were pretty bushed after a day of walking so we caught one of the free tour busses back north to our apartment.
Like much of our trip we were struck by the juxtaposition of beauty and horror. Our next stop was Savannah, Georgia.
2 thoughts on “Trip to the South: Charleston, SC”
You captured the experience eloquently, both with your words and photos.