“People without power are not without nobility.” – novelist, Ralph Ellison
At Boone Hall there are nine original slave cabins still on the property that they were built between 1790 and 1810. Magnolia Plantation, too, has begun a marvelous project in the restoration of Magnolia’s slave cabins. D.J. Tucker and Preston Cooley visited Edisto Island recently to speak at the annual meeting of the History Museum. They are working, at Magnolia Plantation, to restore dignity to the people whose history has been previously untold. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
On Oct 1st Michael Twitty will visit Magnolia to “link the past to the present through food”. Certainly all the rice and gravy, okra, and cornbread I grew up eating, has its origins in the African American slave kitchens of the Lowcountry. Many of those kitchens, accorded to historian Michael Vlach, were the complete and private domain of the black cook. Plan to visit Magnolia on that weekend for the festivities and tours of their cabins. Magnolia has also teamed with Lowcountry Africana, and funded a marvelous website that lists many documents for slave descendants searching their family origins.
The Edisto Island Museum is now restoring two slave cabins on the island. Edisto was isolated from the mainland and is one of the islands that preserved the Gullah Culture and language because of the isolation.There is much history yet to be discovered, and this feels like a hopeful beginning for us in the South Carolina Lowcountry. As we recognize and appreciate the hands that laid the bricks, forged the iron, and tilled the soil here, we may begin to see ourselves with more honest eyes, and with more communal spirit.
Reflecting on black experience in America, Ralph W. Ellison continued, “any people who could undergo such dismemberment and resuscitate itself, and endure until it could take the initiative in achieving its own freedom is obviously more than the sum of its brutalization.”
Michelle Obama, a child of the Gullah people of Georgetown, South Carolina is now the First Lady of the United States and lives in The White House. For me, the gentleness of the church going people who are my neighbors on Edisto Island is reason enough to shout this history from the rooftops.