Magnolia Plantation – Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is our favorite American city to date. It is beautiful and its residents were welcoming and genuine.
But it does have a darker side in its history, and it is a darker side of American history as a whole – Slavery. The state of South Carolina, like many States of the antebellum south depended on slave labor and slaves built many of the great buildings you see today.
The Old Slave Mart, located on one of Charleston’s few remaining cobblestone streets, is the only known extant building used as a slave auction gallery in South Carolina. During the antebellum period, Charleston served as a center of commercial activity for the South’s plantation economy, which depended heavily upon slaves as a source of labor.
And it is this plantation economy that was the rise and fall of the famous Magnolia Plantation.
The plantation’s roots go back to 1676 and was a powerhouse in rice production and depended entirely on slave labor. Rice was a cash crop in its day and rice growing, in the swampy waters was dangerous as a small cut can induce deadly infections.
After the war destroyed the economy of the South, the Drayton family (who are now in their 12th generation), opened the surviving gardens to the public earning a living. Many of their former slaves remained and worked on the land in exchange for free housing – their former cabins. These descendants of slaves developed their own culture and language – the Gullah.
These cabins contrasted with the beauty of the plantation and gardens was a bit emotional to see. Yet knowing that one family who were descendant of former slaves whose children worked on the gardens in their youth became college graduates and military veterans gave testament to the power of will over circumstances.
I am glad to have visited this place in Black History Month – to acknowledge this dark past, to give respect to those who built and made America great, to see the root of the current issues challenging all Americans and to see that despite all this, there is hope that people will triumph.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.