Explore African-American history with the Green Book of South Carolina, an online travel guide features more than 300 African American heritage sites in the Palmetto State.
It is called “The Green Book” to pay homage to an early form of travel for African Americans, who relied on a directory called “The Negro Motorists Green Book” for safe and welcoming places during the Jim Crow Era.
Today’s version provides a user-friendly way for residents and visitors to discover African-American culture with a few clicks on your laptop or mobile device.
From the colonial era to the Civil Rights movement, each of these sites expresses intriguing historical moments.
Among many features, the guide provides a brief description of the historical significance of each site, plus driving directions and opportunities to share travel experiences on social media.
It also makes it easy to search for sites – by either using your own keyword or browsing through categories like “historic churches” and “historic markers.”
The Green Book of South Carolina was created to increase awareness of the state’s wide range of African-American tourism destinations and to encourage travelers to immerse themselves in all of its rich history.
South Carolina locations to visit during Black History Month
South Carolina African American Heritage Commission
African American heritage spans more than 300 years in South Carolina, dating before 1670 when enslaved Africans were among the first settlers at Charles Towne Landing.
Not only did South Carolina become a primary entry point for the transatlantic slave trade and a leader in the plantation model of agriculture, it was also fertile ground for Reconstruction and a hotbed for civil rights activism.
Southern African American Heritage Center, Cheraw
Located in Cheraw’s historic black business district, the Southern African American Heritage Center is dedicated to collecting, documenting and preserving the contributions of African Americans in Chesterfield County. Visitors will find documents and artifacts on display that relate to local history and culture from the 1800s to the mid-1900s, including Dizzy Gillespie, Coulter Memorial Academy, Long High School, and civil rights and church history. The Center offers walking tours of African American landmarks in downtown Cheraw, educational programs for adults and children, and a gift shop. Call or visit the website for hours and admission or to schedule a tour.
Penn Center, near Beaufort
The Penn School was founded in 1862 by northern missionaries and abolitionists who came to South Carolina after the capture of the Sea Islands by Union troops. The Penn School site was where Martin Luther King held a strategy meeting before his March on Washington in 1963.
Gadsden’s Wharf, Charleston
Completed in 1772 by slave labor, the wharf was most active between 1783 and 1808 when an estimated 100,000 African men, women, and children arrived and were sold into slavery It stretched between today’s Calhoun and Laurens Streets and from the harbor to East Bay Street. Visitors to the wharf today will see the Charleston Maritime Center, and the National Park Service’s visitors’ center from which ferries carry passengers to Fort Sumter. Waysides at the site interpret the historical significance of Gadsden’s Wharf, the work of the noted blacksmith Philip Simmons, and contributions of the civil rights activist Septima Clark.
Atlantic Beach, near North Myrtle Beach
Nicknamed “The Black Pearl,” Atlantic Beach was one of few black-owned and governed oceanfront communities in the United States. It was established around 1934 as a destination for blacks who were denied access to other area beaches because of segregation laws.
Ronald E. McNair Life History Center, Lake City
The Ronald E. McNair Life History Center pays tribute to the life of Dr. McNair, a Lake City-born astronaut and physicist who died in the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion.
Liberty Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church and Summerton High School in Clarendon County
Meetings held in this church in the 1940s and 1950s led to local court cases that helped bring about the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling desegregating public schools. Nineteen members of this congregation were plaintiffs in the case of Briggs v. Elliott, heard in U.S. District Court in Charleston in 1952. Although the three-judge panel refused to abolish racial segregation in South Carolina schools, a dissenting opinion influenced the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
South Carolina State House / African American Monument, Columbia
Self-guided Civil Rights Tour down Main Street in Columbia
As the state’s center of government, the capitol building was a setting for the reshaping of public policy that supported civil rights.
A monument to African Americans was installed on the grounds as part of a compromise to remove the Civil War battle flag from atop the state house dome. This monument illustrates the story of African Americans in South Carolina from their arrival during the slave trade to the modern age.
The Main Street Tour features markers where sit ins and protests were staged at drug stores and diners, and where Sarah Mae Flemming was removed from a city bus in June 1954, establishing an important legal precedent for the Montgomery Bus Boycott inspired by Rosa Parks.
Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site, near Aiken
Redcliffe interprets the history of multiple generations of families who were enslaved here and at other plantations owned by South Carolina Governor James Henry Hammond, or who worked as sharecroppers and/or paid employees from 1831 to 1875.
Benjamin E. Mays Birthplace, near Greenwood
– This house is the birthplace of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays (1894-1984), Baptist minister, college president, author, and civil rights pioneer. He was a graduate of Bates College and the University of Chicago and was an early opponent of segregation. Best known as president of Morehouse College in Atlanta (1940-1967), Mays was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as his “spiritual mentor.”
Springfield Baptist Church, Greenville
Springfield is the oldest black Baptist congregation in downtown Greenville. It was founded in 1867 by 65 freed slaves and four deacons who had been members of Greenville Baptist Church (now First Baptist Church), which had been a combined congregation of whites and blacks before the Civil War. Springfield Baptist Church was headquarters for non-violent civil rights protests in the 1960s. The church became pivotal in the movement on Jan. 1, 1960 with a peaceful march from the church to the Greenville Downtown Airport. The march was organized after the keynote speaker for a state NAACP convention, Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player, was denied use of the airport’s waiting room.
McCrory’s Civil Rights Sit-ins / “Friendship Nine,” Rock Hill
A historic marker stands in front of historic McCrory’s five and dime store where, on Jan. 31, 1961, students from Friendship Jr. College were arrested when they refused to leave the lunch counter after being denied service. Nine students refused to pay fines and became the first Civil Rights sit-in protesters in the nation to serve jail time. This new “Jail No Bail” strategy by the “Friendship Nine” was soon adopted as the model strategy for the Freedom Rides of 1961.
Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum, Seneca
Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum explains turbulent history of the local African American community.
Source: The Green Book of South Carolina, an online travel guide of more than 300 heritage and cultural sites in the Palmetto State. You can also follow the Green Book on Twitter and Facebook using @GreenBookofSC and by searching the hashtags #BlackHistoryInSC and #Top10inSC.
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