horizontal banner with Preserve America logo and images of a historic downtown, farm, courthouse, and mountain

Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Preserve America Community:
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Mount Pleasant (population 67,843) is a large suburban town in Charleston County. The area that is now Mount Pleasant was home to the Edisto and Sewee Indian tribes. It was first visited by Europeans beginning in the late 1600s, and the town’s historic Christ Church dates to 1727. Several of our nation’s founding fathers, including Charles Pickney and Edward Rutledge (the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence), had ties to Mount Pleasant. Snee Farm (Pickney’s plantation home) and Boone Hall Plantation (one of America’s oldest remaining working plantations) are both National Historic Sites.

Mount Pleasant is separated from the City of Charleston by the Cooper River. For many years it was primarily populated seasonally by Charleston residents wealthy enough to afford summer homes across the river from the Charleston peninsula. These homes were centered in an area of town now known as “The Old Village,” a National Register Historic District. Mount Pleasant is also home to 14 Gullah Geechee communities and is in the center of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the only National Heritage Area in America dedicated to the African/African American presence in U.S. history. This unique culture was shaped by the traditions of captive West Africans brought to the southern United States and continued in later generations by their descendents.

As a result of the Civil War, slaves who had worked the area plantations were free to pursue their own enterprises. Scanlonville, one of the first African-American communities to be formed in Charleston after the Civil War, still exists today in Mount Pleasant. Robert Scanlon, a former slave and freedman carpenter, was the president and founder of the Charleston Land Company, formed by 100 poor African-American men of Charleston, who paid $10 per share to purchase large tracts of land in the area. The Charleston Land Company then divided it up for freed slaves seeking to own their own land. Remley’s Plantation was divided into farm lots and smaller town lots to form the community of Scanlonville, one of only four known cooperative ventures among African-American freedmen after the Civil War.

Mount Pleasant has been recognized for exemplary accomplishments in the sustainable use and preservation of cultural and natural heritage assets, and integrating them into contemporary community life. Working with the local Gullah Geechee population, whose ancestors brought the art of sweetgrass basket weaving from West Africa three centuries ago, Mount Pleasant has taken the lead in spearheading ongoing collaboration among local residents, government agencies, developers, environmentalists, and the basketmakers to protect and promote this traditional art and save the land where sweetgrass thrives.

Traditional Sweetgrass woven Baskets at Mt. Pleasant, SC

The town has partnered with the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association on many initiatives, including an annual festival and the creation of a Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion at Memorial Waterfront Park. Residents and visitors can watch basketmakers at work and purchase the artisans’ creations. A grant from the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor was used for the construction of the pavilion, and a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission was used for the creation of an interpretive exhibit.

Over 300 years after the first Europeans established permanent homes east of the Cooper River, the Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission created a collaborative Web page to collect and celebrate the community’s exceptionally rich history. Residents with interesting historical documents, images, or accounts which contribute to this narrative are directed to a submittal page and invited to participate with the Commission in documenting Mount Pleasant’s heritage.

For more information:
Town of Mount Pleasant http://townofmountpleasant.com/

Mount Pleasant history page http://www.tompsc.com/index.aspx?NID=83

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor http://www.nps.gov/guge/index.htm

Posted May 11, 2012

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