African American

At South Carolina state parks, you can walk the same historic ground where African-Americans have lived for generations. From the first English settlement of 1670 at Charles Towne Landing, to parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, men and women of African descent have played important roles in South Carolina history. These sites document more than 350 years of a long struggle against injustice, beginning with slavery and continuing through Reconstruction, Jim Crow-era segregation, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement, and continuing to the present day. The state parks also record how African American men and women survived in the face of oppression, created strong communities and shaped the history of South Carolina.

Also, click here to visit the Green Book of SC website.  The Green Book of SC is a travel guide to S.C. African American cultural sites in the state.

Slavery – Colonial, Antebellum, and Reconstruction

Hampton Plantation, a former rice plantation in the Santee Delta, was the center of the Horry, Pinckney, and Rutledge family holdings in the area. It was home to multiple generations of men and women of African descent, from colonial slavery through Reconstruction and beyond. The impact of their lives and work on the South Carolina coast can still be seen in the construction of the plantation house, the region’s unique Gullah culture, and even in the permanently altered landscape.

Did You Know?
You can hear oral history interviews of some of the plantation’s former African-American residents such as Sue Alston during your tour.

Want to Visit?
Information about the site’s African-American history can be heard during the park’s guided tours of the historic mansion, through interpretive waysides throughout the property and during special programs throughout the year. Documents relating to the site’s history and residents can be found online through the tab “Historical Documents” on the park’s website. Virtual tours of the house and grounds are also available in the “Virtual Exhibits” tab.

Slavery - Antebellum, Reconstruction, Segregation & Black Migration

At least 21 men and women of African descent were enslaved at Redcliffe Plantation, home of SC Governor James Henry Hammond, in the 1850s. These men and women were part of a much larger slave community that by 1864 included approximately 300 individuals on four different plantations. Their mark is still visible today on the landscape and structures at Redcliffe. Some former enslaved families continued living and working at Redcliffe as paid employees through the 1970s. Their experiences and contributions are documented through extensive historical records.

Did You Know?
The Henley family lived alongside the Hammonds of Redcliffe for almost 150 years, first as enslaved workers and later as freedmen and paid employees. Although they never owned Redcliffe, the Henley family lived on the Redcliffe property almost two decades after the last Hammond family member did.

Want to Visit?
Information about African-American history as it relates to Redcliffe and about the lives of the African Americans who lived and worked there can be heard during the park’s daily tours of the historic mansion and cabins where enslaved individuals and later sharecroppers lived. If not taking a tour, more information can be found in the park’s interpretive exhibit “Redcliffe, Then & Now” which is located in the Visitor Center and a smaller exhibit in one of the remaining slave cabins. The site also features programs specifically focused on African-American history several times during the year (see the webpage for more details). A booklet on the site’s African-American history and other research documents are available by request.

Slavery – Antebellum & Reconstruction

By 1860, William Henry Gist—South Carolina’s “Secessionist Governor”—enslaved up to 178 men, women, and children of African descent at Rose Hill, a large upcountry cotton plantation. After emancipation, some freedpeople remained on the plantation as tenant farmers, forming churches and schools in the areas around Rose Hill. Tenant farmers continued to live and work at Rose Hill until the late 1930s. Their journey to freedom and their struggle for equal citizenship is explored through research, interpretation, and preservation.

Did You Know?
One of the first tour guides at Rose Hill was Louise Giles Browning, whose father Charlie Giles had once been enslaved at a neighboring plantation.  As a state employee, Browning gave tours of the mansion from the founding of the park in 1960 until her retirement in 1973.

Want to Visit?
Information about the site’s African-American history can be heard during the park’s tours of the historic mansion, through interpretive text located in the historic brick kitchen, and by talking with a park ranger.  Throughout the year the site also holds several special programs and events that focus on African-American history (see webpage for more details).

Aiken, Chester & Poinsett State Parks

Segregation & Great Depression

During the hard times of the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) gave young men jobs conserving natural resources. The CCC built 16 of South Carolina’s state parks throughout the 1930s, three of which – Aiken, Chester and Poinsett – were built by two different segregated African-American companies – 4470 and 4475. Facing discrimination from within the CCC, as well as from the local communities they were working in, these companies persevered and helped to build the parks that visitors still enjoy today.

Want to Visit?

Interpretation at these parks consists largely of waysides, although park staff is available to answer questions about the history of the parks and the men who built them.

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

Slavery – Colonial & Antebellum

Men and women of African descent were among the first settlers of Charles Towne in 1670. The increasing presence of Africans as slave laborers at early Charles Towne strengthened the economic viability of the colony, contributed materially to its defense, broadened the culture of the settlement and eventually led to an entrenched system of slave labor that would remain in existence until the end of the Civil War. The arrival of enslaved Africans at Charles Towne began an unbroken transmission of African and Creole cultural contributions to South Carolina.

Want to Visit?

Visitors can learn more about the contributions of people of African descent at Charles Towne Landing in the park’s interactive exhibit “Charles Towne: The Beginning” located in the Visitor Center. Interpretive waysides throughout the park also focus on its antebellum history at sites like the African-American burial ground and former slave row. Most park programs include information on African-American history at the site. Extensive research by the site’s historians and archaeologists may be available upon request.

Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

Slavery – Colonial

Once a flourishing trading town along the Ashley River, Colonial Dorchester provides a unique look at the lives of enslaved men and women of African descent in an urban setting versus the plantation setting. Both native populations and people of African descent worked and lived as enslaved domestic laborers and artisans and were vital parts of the community.

Did You Know?

The earliest Dorchester-area slave reference is from the diary of Congregationalist elder William Pratt, who recorded his purchase of a black slave woman in August 1699.

Want to Visit?

Visitors can learn about the park’s African-American history through programs and archaeological demonstrations held through the year.  Click here for more details.

Croft State Park

Segregation & World War II

Enlisting to fight for their country during World War II, many African Americans found themselves placed in non-combat support positions and segregated both in training and living conditions at bases like Camp Croft, an army infantry training facility near Spartanburg, SC.

Want to Visit?

Park rangers are available to answer questions about the park’s history.

Edisto Beach State Park

Also Hunting Island, Lake Greenwood, Cheraw, Poinsett, Huntington Beach state parks 

Segregation & Civil Rights

From the use of segregated groups to build parks to entry to the parks themselves, segregation was very much a part of the early history of South Carolina’s state parks until the statewide desegregation of parks in 1966. Attempts to desegregate the state park system first began at Edisto Beach in 1955. When the Charleston Chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit challenging segregation at Edisto Beach, the state closed the park for ten years rather than integrate.

Did you know?

Six state parks were either built specifically for the state’s African-American residents or with special segregated areas including Hunting Island, Lake Greenwood, and Huntington Beach state parks, and Pleasant Ridge (now a Greenville County Park) Mill Creek (now a Sumter County Park) and Campbells Pond (now part of Sandhills State Forest).

Want to Visit?

Park Rangers are available at each of these parks to answer questions about the history of these parks. 

Huntington Beach State Park – Atalaya

Slavery - Antebellum & Segregation, Great Depression

African Americans have greatly contributed to the cultural landscape of Huntington Beach State Park. The park is located on acreage that originally served as four rice plantations. Interviews with former slaves from these plantations are included in the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writer’s Project (Library of Congress). In the early 1930s, philanthropist Archer Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, hired local African-Americans to construct a winter home called Atalaya and an outdoor sculpture gallery called Brookgreen Gardens. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the Huntingtons engaged local residents as paid employees for the house and gardens. They also built churches, schools, and clinics for the nearby African-American community.

Want to Visit?

Information about Atalaya’s African-American employees and the Huntington’s community involvement in Murrells Inlet can be heard during guided tours of the historic home.

Landsford Canal State Park

Slavery – Colonial and Antebellum

Portions of William Richardson Davie’s Tivoli Plantation are within the boundaries of Landsford Canal State Park.  Davie, a Revolutionary War officer and Governor of North Carolina, chose to return to the area where he lived as a youth for his retirement years. At the time of his death in 1820, 116 enslaved laborers were working and living on this cotton plantation. Although the plantation house was burned in 1865, archaeologists have identified the site of the house as well as the homes of enslaved families of African descent on land adjacent to the park.

Did You Know?

More research may discover much more about the life of African Americans who lived and worked on the lands which are now protected by Landsford Canal State Park. Did African Americans help with the construction of the canal or was it limited to Irish and Scottish contractors? Did African Americans construct or work at any of the three grist mills on the property? Did any soldiers of African descent camp there during the Revolutionary War?

Want to Visit?

Park staff is available to answer questions about the history of the park.

Rivers Bridge State Historic Site

Slavery & the Civil War

Men and women of African descent may have contributed in a number of ways to the battle of Rivers Bridge which occurred in February of 1865. Slave laborers from local plantations were probably pressed into service to build the earthen fortifications that protected the Confederate position at Rivers Bridge while freedmen and runaway slaves who joined the Union army to serve as “pioneers” wielded axes and shovels to hack roads through the Salkehatchie swamp that helped Union troops to flank the fortified Confederate line.

Want to Visit?

Park Rangers are available at this park to answer questions about the history of the park.