The Scandalous Black Dance of 1795, Part 2

The Scandalous Black Dance of 1795, Part 2

April 3, 2020

White Charlestonians of 1795 were shocked to find a local magistrate at the center of an illegal black dance raided by city police. Revelers fleeing the nocturnal “frolick” left William Cunnington to face the law alone, and he defended his hon...

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The Scandalous Black Dance of 1795, Part 1

The Scandalous Black Dance of 1795, Part 1

March 27, 2020

The traditions of African-American dance and music form an important part of Charleston’s cultural heritage that survived many generations of local discrimination and active suppression. In 1795, for example, the sounds of a nocturnal “negro d...

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Pandemic and Panic: Influenza in 1918 Charleston

Pandemic and Panic: Influenza in 1918 Charleston

March 20, 2020

Pandemic and panic visited Charleston in the autumn of 1918 when the Spanish Influenza spread throughout the community in a wave of acute sickness and death. Under the shadow of the Great War raging in Europe, the city was ill-equipped to counter ...

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Yamboo: An Enslaved Muslim in Early South Carolina

Yamboo: An Enslaved Muslim in Early South Carolina

March 13, 2020

Yamboo was a stoic African man whose Muslim faith helped him endure a life of servitude in eighteenth-century South Carolina. His brief autobiography, published in Charleston in 1790, provides valuable evidence of the presence of Islam among this ...

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His Majesty’s Warships in Charleston Harbor

His Majesty’s Warships in Charleston Harbor

March 6, 2020

The presence of British warships in Charleston harbor was not confined to a few isolated events during the American Revolution. Between 1720 and 1775, a succession of royal frigates was stationed here to protect the colony’s valuable trade and t...

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Self-Purchase: The Price of Freedom from Slavery

Self-Purchase: The Price of Freedom from Slavery

February 28, 2020

Can you put a monetary value on your freedom? This philosophical question was once a legitimate query in South Carolina. Our early laws described enslaved people as property, trapped in lifetime of legal servitude without hope of advancement. By e...

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Private Manumission: An Intimate Path to Freedom

Private Manumission: An Intimate Path to Freedom

February 21, 2020

The laws of early South Carolina viewed enslaved people as private property that individual owners could trade, sell, and even emancipate as they saw fit. That liberty allowed numerous slave owners to set free an unknown number of men, women, and ...

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Public Manumission: A Reward for Remarkable Service

Public Manumission: A Reward for Remarkable Service

February 14, 2020

On multiple occasions between 1708 and 1822, the South Carolina General Assembly voted to spend public funds to secure the freedom of enslaved people who had performed remarkable acts of public service. These public manumissions, as we might call ...

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Defining Charleston’s Free People of Color

Defining Charleston’s Free People of Color

February 7, 2020

Freedom and slavery were the opposing states of being that defined the lives of most early Charlestonians, but this community also hosted a small but vibrant population of people who lived somewhere between those legal poles. This population of so...

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The Myth of the Holy City

The Myth of the Holy City

January 24, 2020

The phrase “Holy City” is a fixture of the Charleston lexicon often used to describe our community’s deep history of religious freedom and diversity. Contrary to popular belief, however, the early inhabitants of the South Carolina Lowcountry...

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