Charleston commemorates Reconstruction

azaleas statute

Seen in one of the spectacular Charleston S.C. gardens

High temperature today of 76 F in the birthplace of the Confederacy, Charleston, S.C. About normal for this time of year. Azaleas are in full bloom.

Professor Einstein back at UW-Madison says history is always being rewritten. That is true in this city of history, founded in 1670, where Revolutionary War heroes are buried, the proposed Constitution was read aloud at the Old Exchange, John C. Calhoun developed his theory of nullification, and the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

The new street plaque was unveiled Friday (03-16-18) at the Waring Judicial Center garden outside the federal building, just off the well-traveled corner of Broad and Meeting Street and across the street from St. Michael’s Anglican Church (1752), where George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped.

Seize PlanterThere are almost 200 of these plaques here, but this one commemorates the 1868 state constitutional convention that restored South Carolina, the first state to secede, back into the union. Bitterly contested by whites, that convention 150 years ago enfranchised African-Americans, most of whom had been slaves just five years earlier and most of whom were not truly emancipated until Appomattox.

While 17 other markers commemorate black achievements, this marker will be the only one in Charleston to address Reconstruction, a period wonderfully recounted in Ron Chernow’s bio of U.S. Grant.

The Charleston Post & Courier quotes a University of Charleston history prof to say that the new marker is one of many that needs to be made to “undo the damage done by the mythology of Charleston created in the early 20th Century.” More here.

It is fitting that the marker should be located next to the Waring Judicial Center garden. Federal Circuit Judge J. W. Waring, son of a Confederate veteran, dissented in Briggs v. Elliott (1952) where he declared that “segregation is per se inequality.” His enlightened view was upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Briggs in Brown v. Topeka.

Wikipedia tells us that the plaintiffs were fired from their jobs, their church was fire bombed, and they were shot at before moving out of town. Judge Waring had already been shunned by the white community in Charleston and subjected to attacks for previous decisions favorable to equal rights; after Briggs, he moved to New York.

When in Charleston, do take a two-hour, walking history guided tour. We found a marker commemorating the seizure of the Confederate transport ship Planter by seven slaves who stole away from harbor, sailed it out past Fort Sumter (in Confederate control by then) to the Union naval blockade. The mastermind was one Robert Smalls, who went on to become a U.S. Congressman during Reconstruction, which ended in 1877.

Today the Squire and the Lovely Lisa tour the interiors of the gracious old homes on Meeting Street south of Broad Street after wandering through exquisite gardens Thursday, including Judge Waring’s house. The tours are put on by Historic Charleston Foundation March 15 through April 20.

By the way the seafood down here is excellent.


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About David Blaska

Madison WI
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3 Responses to Charleston commemorates Reconstruction

  1. madisonexpat says:

    From 1865 to the start of WW 2 Charleston was “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.”


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