Researchers Compile History of Black S.C. Hamlets

CHARLESTON S.C. – Researchers from two states are compiling a history of Black hamlets on the South Carolina coast originally settled by freed slaves and now threatened by suburban sprawl.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Monday that historians from Clemson University and from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania are collecting the history of the 10 communities northeast of Charleston.

The hamlets extend from Remley’s Point where the Arthur Ravenel bridge links Mount Pleasant to Charleston northeastward for 15 miles along the coast.

The hamlets are scattered throughout the Mount Pleasant area. Mount Pleasant is a growing Charleston bedroom community of upscale homes and shopping centers that is sprawling along the coast.

The Black hamlets, some dating to the 1880s, were once surrounded by farm fields and woodlands. Sweetgrass, used for making the area’s famed woven sweetgrass baskets, once grew in abundance in the area.

Researcher Cari Goetcheus of Clemson University said the communities deserve to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Three thousand properties in the Mount Pleasant area are being inventoried with a $34,000 grant from the National Park Service.

Goetcheus is working with local planners so they are aware of the historic nature of the homes and buildings when making zoning decisions.

Dr. Patrick Hurley of Ursinus has compared aerial photos of the area from 1949 with those take in 2006 to show how the are has developed.

Some small plots where Blacks grew crops still exist and are a legacy from that time, he said.

Goetcheus said the studies will preserve the history of the Black communities for future generations.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for heritage tourism,” she said.