African-American contributions highlight Magnolia Plantation Black History Month program

January 17, 2012

CHARLESTON, SC – January 17, 2012 – Historians, artisans, Civil War re-enactors and a storyteller will present a spectrum of African-American history from colonial times to the present during a Black History Month program Feb. 11 at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

The day-long event – “From Slavery to Freedom” – will feature speakers in the Carriage House and outdoor demonstrations along “the street” at Magnolia’s award-winning slave cabin project.

The program also coincides with the American Heritage Merit Badge Program for local Boy Scout troops. Magnolia is the only local organization that teaches the American Heritage Merit Badge as it pertains to African-American history.

Magnolia’s history consultant, Joseph McGill, said Magnolia’s “From Slavery to Freedom” program takes the bold steps daily to interpret the contributions of enslaved and free people on a Southern plantation.

The Black History Month program, he said, offers an opportunity to broaden the discussion of the role African-Americans played in Lowcountry culture. “The wide array of presenters and subject matters is an indication that African Americans contributed to numerous facets of this nation’s history.”

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded in 1915 by educator and historian Carter G. Woodson, is calling for Black History Month events this year to highlight the contributions of black women in American history and culture. In keeping with ASALH’s nationwide call, presenters during Magnolia’s program will include the contributions of women.

On Feb. 11, the Black History Month program and guided tours of the “From Slavery to Freedom” cabin project are free with a $15 garden admission. The times and the events in the Carriage House are: 10 a.m., Michael D. Coker, assistant to the director, Old Exchange Building, Colonial Roots: African Americans in the Lowcountry.

  • 11 a.m., Dr. Bernard Powers, history professor, College of Charleston, African American role in the Civil War.
  • 1 p.m., Storyteller Alada Shinault-Small, “Gullah Storytime: Cum Yeddi!”
  • 1:30 p.m., Joseph McGill, Slave Dwelling Project.
  • 2:30 p.m., Preston Cooley, Magnolia historian, abolitionist Archibald Grimke.
  • 3:30 p.m., Dr. John Rashford, anthropology professor, College of Charleston, Plants in African Religious Traditions of the Americas.
  • 4:30 p.m., genealogist and historian Toni Carrier, Lowcountry Africana, University of South Florida.

Concurrent outdoor demonstrations at the “From Slavery to Freedom” cabin project will begin 10 a.m. and end 3 p.m. They include:

  • Storyteller Alada Shinault-Small, “Gullah Storytime: Cum Yeddi!”
  • Rodney Prioleau, master mason, Fort Sumter National Monument, brick laying demonstration.
  • African-American Civil War re-enactors, 54th Massachusetts, Co. I, Civil War Reenactment Regiment.
  • Heather Welch, Magnolia’s food historian, cooking with the Mass. 54th.
  • Blacksmith Joseph “Ronnie” Pringle and Carlton Simmons, Simmons Blacksmith Shop. Pringle and Simmons were trained by legendary blacksmith Philip Simmons.
  • Rose Marie Manigault, sweetgrass baskets.

Interpretation of the “From Slavery to Freedom” cabin project will also feature Isaac Leach, a member of the Magnolia garden staff, who will discuss his experience of living in one of the cabins with his family.

Tom Johnson, Magnolia’s director of gardens, said Magnolia has consistently told the story of the role African Americans played in the creation and maintenance of the gardens.

Magnolia’s camellia collection includes two plants named for Tina Gilliard, who was a long-time greeter at Magnolia in the early 1900s, and the Rev. John Bennett, former Magnolia garden superintendent.