Charleston, South Carolina has been on my bucket list for years. And, visiting a gorgeous plantation was on the itinerary. As a boy mom, I get drug to dirt bike offroad parks, car museums, battle ship museums, deep sea fishing boats, and the list goes on. While I don't mind those, I couldn't wait to breathe in the history, culture, architecture, and FOOD of Charleston.
Charleston was everything I had imagined and hoped for. Giant live oaks with Spanish moss dripping from them draped over the streets, several hundred year old buildings stood perched on the side of cobblestone streets, and beautifully designed mansions standing in all their grandeur faced the battery. And the food. Oh my word, the food! I have yet to decide what the deliciously sweet concoction was that I dipped the most perfectly browned hush puppy in over at Leon's Poultry & Oyster Shop but my word, if I had a gallon of it, I would drink it right now! And, the oyster sampler over at Hank's Seafood Restaurant is the stuff dreams are made of. Per the usual, we took our rig on the trip and I had found us a great place to stay down at James Island Campground near Folley Beach. From paved bike paths and dog park to a full blown water park, this place had it all! On a side note, if you are traveling in a big rig, know that Central Park Rd. and Riverland Dr. are not for the faint of heart with narrow lanes and very low hanging tree limbs. It is, however, worth the drive! With all of these amazing attractions, the history of Charleston was what I was most excited about.
We made our way through town and up to the Magnolia Plantation on the Ashley River. I breathed in the smell of moss and dirt as we weaved down the shade covered foot path to the gardens. With a limited amount of time, we purchased our tickets, choosing the house tour as well as the Slavery to Freedom tour. We meandered through the romantic style gardens that have been open to the public since the 1870's. The lusciously wild array of camellias, daffodils, azaleas, and countless other flowers blooming was breathtaking. However, there was no time to stop, as we had a tour to catch!
We wove our way back to the depot stop next to the house and boarded a train for the Slavery to Freedom tour. We left the garden areas and drove past swamps on our way to a clearing where the slave houses were placed. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable sharing with us how Rev. Drayton had brought 12 slaves and sugar cane cuttings with him when they arrived in Carolina but the sugar cane had failed because it was too hot, so instead he chose to grow rice which is only native to Asia & Africa. In 1780 there were 1000 rice plantations in the South all dependent upon slave labor. The end of the Civil War and slave labor ended the rice industry. I wish I could remember our tour guides name, because I was so impressed with the facts that he shared, such as 3/4 of the value of the property during the slave trade was based on the slaves. If you took the slaves away, the property was worthless without anyone to work the rice fields. During the slave trade, 500,000 slaves were brought on a 1-3.5 month voyage across the Atlantic, chained in the bottom of a ship to come to North America. There was a 30% mortality rate and of those that survived, they would then live a lifestyle of servitude to be treated as chattel. We gazed upon the small white houses as the guide shared with us about children working fields, women sorting rice, and men building structures on the property. He shared with us how slavery was horrendous and this was not a time in America's history to be proud of.
After the presentation, our group was able to tour the houses and meander in and out pondering what it must have been like for a slave's family of ten to share the one room cabin, sleeping on the floor boards, and huddling around the fireplace for warmth. As I saw people shake their heads with downcast eyes, I couldn't help but feel rage rise up. If they only knew that slavery still existed. If they only knew that slavery didn't die on January 1, 1863. If they only knew that today, there are more people trapped in slavery than ever before in human history. Here people were, traveling to this destination, buying tickets to learn about slavery, and yet refusing to pull their heads out of the sand and see what is happening all around them. I could only hope that one day, our descendants will walk through a museum learning about the travesty of the human trafficking epidemic and hear how it had been eradicated forever. But for now, I would thank the tour guide, sip my sweet tea, and tour the stately mansion.
If you are looking for a plantation steeped in history and beauty, I highly recommend the Drayton family's Magnolia. And, if you've dreamt of the beauty and culture of Charleston, don't wait any longer. Go breathe it all in!
Brandi is a purposeful business owner, writer, speaker, and podcast host that enjoys traveling with her husband and sons in their Super C RV.
Who am I?
Hi! I'm. Brandi, founder of The Power Project. There are a few things I'm passionate about in life, and one of those happens to be my LOVE of travel! We enjoy traveling the world with our kids as well as the continental United States in our motorhome. I hope you enjoy some of our most memorable adventures!