By Barney Blakeney
*Main House at McLeod Plantation*
Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission March 23 held ground breaking ceremonies at McLeod Plantation on James Island in the first step to preserve the historically significant site that has existed since 1741. And last week, the Gullah Geechie Heritage Corridor saw the erection of signs designating historic sites placed along the corridor in the state. The two initiatives will help to elevate the Gullah Geechie culture in the hearts and minds of the community and country, said National Park Service Gullah Geechie Corridor Co-ordinator Michael Allen.
The Gullah Geechie Heritage Corridor that spans the coastal lines of four states - Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina - was designated by Congress in 2006 to preserve the cultural heritage of the African American people who settled the region and to help states and counties manage its assets.
The signs, in conjunction with brochures and banners at various sites along the corridor link the African culture and heritage in the U.S., said Allen.
The signs are the first visible product highlighted in the Gullah Geechie Management Plan which has a mission to nurture and facilitate understanding and awareness of the significance of the Gullah Geechie culture within communities, to sustain and preserve the land, language and cultural assets of the Gullah Geechie people, to promote economic development among the Gullah Geechie people and to educate the public on the value and importance of Gullah Geechie culture.
Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission Board Chairman Tom O’Rourke said groundbreaking at McLeod Plantation gives CCPRC the opportunity to show the region and nation it is indeed in the business of interpreting history.
CCPRC purchased the 36-acre property in 2011 from Historic Charleston Foundation to insure its protection and preservation. The plantation began as 617 acres first cultivated in 1741 by Sam Peronneau. The property changed hands through various family members until 1922 when it was sold to the Country Club of Charleston.
In addition to three generations of the McLeod family, the plantation located on the Wappoo Creek also was home to generations of enslaved and free African Americans. During its 300-year history it was the site of Revolutionary War and Civil War activities and was agriculturally significant locally. Today the property features an outstanding collection of buildings, several oak allees and rich archaeology.
The site currently is closed to the public. However, the master plan for the site includes a welcome center, the main house which will interpret the relationship between the McLeods and slaves as well as the occupation of the site by Union and Confederate troops and the Freedmen’s Bureau. Other structures will offer insight into the lives of slaves, agriculture and production on the plantation, its strategic military significance and a pavilion to accommodate guests and gatherings.
Like the Laurel Hill Plantation East of the Cooper River near the Philip community and the Caw Caw Nature and Interpretative Center on U.S. Highway 17.S , McLeod Plantation will offer another opportunity for CCPRC to make historic presentations to visitors and residents alike, said O’Rourke. Throughout the county’s park system there are examples of African American History, he said.
UPDATE: McLeod Plantation is now open to the public! Here are a few pics from Grand Opening Day!
RELATED STORY: McLeod Plantation Museum Tells the Story of the South
Did you know Gullah Geechee is more than a language or dialect it is a culture? Thousands of enslaved Africans survived the middle passage to reach the sea island shores. The majority of the slaves, 40,000 came from a section of Africa known as Angola. With the people- Mende, Kisi, Malinke, and Bantu - came the soul of Africa. Their ancestral traditions survived as well. The words "Gullah" and "Geechee" have come to describe that legacy.
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