When you combine fascinating information with an enthusiastic, humorous and passionate presentation you end up with a great DIHS program. And that’s what historian Nic Butler gave us at the Tuesday, May 15 meeting.
Butler walked us through ‘TEN THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT LOWCOUNTRY HISTORY.”
His ten included
- Carolina’s agrarian/mercantile economy. Essentially, the lowcountry existed to feed raw materials to both England and Barbados. Lumber, indigo, rice and other commodities fueled the economy.
- Carolina’s “addiction” to slavery. Butler said Carolina emulated the intense slave dependent practices of Barbados (copied after the Portuguese example in Brazil.) His contention was that the economy became so dependent on harsh slavery that both reinforced the other separating the Lowcountry from even other slave holding colonies.
- A lack of development of towns and villages because of the dependence on the plantation/slavery model. He contrasted that to not only the New England colonies but even to slaveholding Virginia.
- Charleston’s early history as a fortified city. Fascinating fact….Charleston was closer to the Spanish settlement in St. Augustine than it was to English speaking settlements in Virginia. Yet those walled fortifications were largely torn down after the Revolutionary War.
- A rich musical heritage. Charleston’s St. Cecelia Society held America’s most popular concerts from 1766-1820.
- Again, Butler put the onus on the Lowcountry economy’s dependence on slavery which put it at odds with most of the nascent United States. Efforts to protect that economy (and slavery) led to the rise of John Calhoun and others who espoused states rights and the nullification concept….major contributors to the eventual civil war.
- Reconstruction…followed by the Jim Crow reaction. Federal efforts to impose a legal system respecting the civil rights of all males (yeah, just males) went away after a political deal to deliver South Carolina’s electoral votes to Rutherford B. Hayes. What followed was the racist backlash known as the Jim Crow era.
- Cultural Renaissance of the 1920s-1940 best exemplified by Porgy and Bess and, yes, The Charleston.
- Historic Preservation….at some point civic leaders realized the fabric of the past is valuable and led to the efforts to preserve local history that has also paid off in today’s tourist boom.
- There’s More! Butler’s last point was there’s so much more that a list of ten things just scratches the surface?