South Carolina is ideal for month-long celebration of African American history


(PR NewsChannel) / January 3, 2013 / COLUMBIA, S.C. 

For those searching for touchstones during Black History Month, don’t miss an opportunity to come to Charleston and sit on the bench.

This special bench, installed by the Toni Morrison Society, faces the waterway that brought thousands of slaves from Africa to Charleston. On the grounds of Fort Moultrie, the bench is intended as a monument. And it’s in a quiet, unassuming spot — perfect for reflection on what the view brings.

“Well, the bench is welcoming, open,” Morrison said when the bench was dedicated. “You can be illiterate and sit on the bench, you can be a wanderer or you can be on a search.”

It’s a great place to start a month-long exploration and celebration of Black History Month in South Carolina, a state where traditions brought from Africa live on today and are elevated into modern life.

It’s a great place to start a month-long exploration and celebration of Black History Month in South Carolina, a state where traditions brought from Africa live on today and are elevated into modern life.

The South Carolina Lowcountry is filled with communities that were established after slavery, populated by people known as Gullah and Geechee. These regions offer a fascinating look at how life is evolving for African Americans who live in areas steeped in tradition.

South Carolina is a major part of the federally recognized Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and is prominently featured in its new website The corridor stretches along the coast from Wilmington, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., with South Carolina representing most of the area. Driving tours are available, and a must-see stop is the Penn Center on St. Helena Island near Beaufort.

The Penn Center is our nation’s first school for freed slaves, and it now serves as a cultural and educational center for the community.

The museum there has a collection of stunning photographs, and the campus is steeped in a distinctive history that combines West African and Lowcountry lives through generations. One of the real gems is the center’s interactive programs. Visitors can learn how to weave sweetgrass baskets, make and cast nets, and speak in the distinctive Gullah dialect. They also can learn the significance of patchwork quilts, spirituals and Gullah storytelling.

Some other places to discover along the South Carolina coast include well-preserved plantation homes and slave quarters. Some particularly good spots include Drayton Hall, Boone Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and Hampton Plantation — all in the Charleston area.  Ideal sites more in the heartland of South Carolina include Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site near Aiken and Historic Brattonsville near Rock Hill. All of these sites treat slavery and African American history with truth and respect, and they provide a strong backdrop for understanding that time in our nation’s history.

Many other sites in the heartland honor African American heroes and artists, trailblazers and leaders.

This year, S.C. native Mary McLeod Bethune becomes the first African American to have a license plate created in her honor. The civil rights leader grew up in Mayesville near Sumter, and the new plate will be unveiled at a state house event at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12.  Proceeds from the sale of the license plate will help fund projects to honor Bethune, including a proposed new visitor center and gift shop off Interstate 95, one of the busiest highways in the state.

The Dr. Ronald E. McNair Memorial on Main Street in Lake City gives tribute to one of America’s first black astronauts. McNair, the second African-American to fly in space, died in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

Visit the Dizzy Gillespie Home Site Park in Cheraw, where the fence contains the notes to Gillespie’s famous “Salt Peanuts.” The innovative trumpeter with the bulging cheeks grew up here, and visitors can tour sites that helped shape this modern jazz master.

Further upstate near Greenwood is the Mays House Museum, which celebrates the life of Dr. Benjamin Mays. Known as the “father of the civil rights movement,” Mays, the son of enslaved parents, was a respected educator, president of Morehouse College and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The grounds have been lovingly restored to a working homestead circa 1900.

Throughout the year, festivals and events honor the culture and contributions celebrated during Black History Month. Some of those include the Gullah Festival held in May in Beaufort, Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival, held in June in Mount Pleasant and the Moja Arts Festival in Charleston each fall.

Also this year, noted Gullah artist Jonathan Green is lending his extensive collection to Charleston’s Gibbes Museum of Art for an exhibition celebrating the diverse cultural influences that have shaped American art. This exhibit runs Jan. 11 through April 21 and includes African American, Caribbean, Latin American and American artists.

South Carolina is the place to explore during Black History Month. History, art, music, fun — it’s all woven together in a colorful tapestry unique to any place on earth.

About Discover South Carolina
South Carolina is just right for vacations! The state features 187 miles of Atlantic coastline, lake  regions and coastal plain in the midlands, and deeply forested Blue Ridge mountains in the upper west corner.  Its moderate temperatures year round attract millions to enjoy this natural beauty, but also to take in historic and cultural attractions built around them, fine dining, charming small towns and world-renowned golf. 

For more information, see

Media Contact:
Dawn Dawson-House
(808) 734-1779
[email protected]

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SOURCE:  Discover South Carolina

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