Charleston history is a colorful tapestry woven from the threads of great stories of real people and events. To do justice to those people and their stories, we must always strive to gain an accurate understanding our shared past. Sometimes the facts get obscured by our imaginations, however, and occasionally some agent or authority actively tries to suppress the facts. This month, the Charleston Time Machine seeks to shed light on a few topics that deserve to be more generally understood among our citizens and by visitors to our community. Using primary source materials such as legislative records, statute law, historic newspapers, and first-person narratives, we’ll peel back the layers of the past and investigate a few important facts behind our community’s French heritage, the details of eighteenth-century African arrivals, and the limited rights once afforded to women.
French Refugees In Charleston, 1789–1816
In the wake of violent revolutions in France and the French island colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti), several thousand impoverished, Catholic refugees (both black and white) poured into Charleston in the 1790s and early 1800s. Starting their lives anew here, they enlivened the city’s cultural life and made a lasting impression on the city’s history. Never heard of this episode? That’s because many South Carolinians who witnessed this French influx sought to suppress the knowledge of the reasons behind their migration. Please join me for a look back at the dramatic struggles these refugees faced, and their contributions to Charleston’s cultural heritage.
- Tuesday, 8 March at 6 p.m., Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401
The Pest House on Sullivan’s Island: A Brief History
From the early colonial era to the 1790s, the quarantine station or “Pest House” on Sullivan’s Island was the first point of landfall for some people coming to South Carolina, especially enslaved Africans. Contrary to popular belief, however, not every arriving vessel was required to deposit its passengers at the Pest House, and some performed quarantine near the island without ever touching the land. During the intense final wave of legal African arrivals in Charleston during the years 1804 through 1807, the new “lazaretto” on Morris Island performed the same function. Please join me for a review of the facts and myths surrounding this humble but important institution and its place in our state’s history.
- Saturday, 19 March at Noon, Edgar Allan Poe Library, 921 Ion Ave, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Women’s Rights In Early South Carolina
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ll explore the narrow range of legal rights afforded to women in the first two centuries of South Carolina, and the ancient European traditions that constrained the lives of the female half of our population. As with all our programs, we’ll include examples of real people whose struggles and successes illuminate our look back at this dim part of our history.
- Wednesday, 23 March at 6 p.m., Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston SC 29401
Questions? Drop me a line at butlern[at]ccpl.org or call 843–805–6968 for more information.