It was my 66th birthday and a fine blue skies day, after 3 days of almost constant rain, to get out and explore a bit of Charleston, South Carolina. I'd never been to historic downtown Charleston, but skirted it once while visiting friends vacationing on Isle of Palms nearby.
We parked Miranda in a lot near the United States Customs building near the harbor and began our walk about. There's a lot of new construction, renovations continue apace, and one can't help but marvel at the magnificent homes located in the historic section of downtown.
I suppose Melanie and I spent about 3 hours or more walking through Live Oak covered parks and making our way through narrow streets and alleyways. And, while it was a great way to spend my birthday, I have to admit it was somewhat tainted by, well, history.
Fort Sumter was visible on our walk and we heard tour guides discussing it and the Civil War with their paid patrons. I wondered aloud what kind of pablum might they be consuming, was it white washed history, Gone with the Wind-styled to assuage delicate white folks sensibilities or were they getting a history that included a discussion of how enslaved labor built many of the magnificent structures that surrounded us, how enslaved peoples made opulent life-styles possible?
There's also the neo-Nazi, Dylann Roof, who murdered 9 people in a bible study in Charleston. One doesn't necessarily have to be from the south to understand how the narrative of root causes of the Civil War got away from factual and was repackaged into the mythical and how much of that mythical southern "heritage" still exists in the telling as I'm typing. We have a white supremacist president in the White House.
Yet for all its appeal, Charleston also evokes a brutal chapter of American life, a city built on and sustained by slave labor for nearly two centuries. Beneath the stately facade of this prosperous city is a savage narrative of Jim Crow and Ku Klux Klan violence, right through the civil rights movement.
One doesn’t have to reach that far back to understand what makes Charleston a haunting place to explore (an estimated 40 to 60 percent of African-Americans can trace their roots here). Only in 2015 did the Confederate flag come down from the state capitol in Columbia, prompted by a young neo-Nazi, Dylann S. Roof, who brandished a handgun and massacred nine people during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest black churches and hallowed ground of the civil rights movement. That one of the casualties, Cynthia Hurd, was the sister of a close colleague only hardened my sense that the so-called Holy City, nicknamed as such after its abundance of churches, was holding fast to its legacy of racial hatred.- In Charleston, Coming to Terms With the Past