Tuesday, September 17, 2013


While Atlanta was a good introduction to the South, the “Old” South really came alive in Charleston. We took a horse carriage tour through the city and enjoyed excellent food at CafĂ© Paradiso and Five Loaves. But the highlight of Charleston, and perhaps of the entire South trip, were the Magnolia and Boone Hall and plantations.

Magnolia is sprawling. We took a mini train tour around 7 square miles of swampy plantation. Along the way, through the humid, warm air, we saw exotic birds and alligators. These animals were sometimes propped up on wooden planks set in the ponds to allow visitors to see the animals sunbathe. Imagine what it would have been like to work at this plantation as a slave 200 years ago, especially in the more remote areas. Behind every bush could be an alligator eyeing you as you picked cotton. 

Visiting Boone Hall was a last minute decision. As we were enjoying our continental breakfast on our last morning in Charleston, we considered our sightseeing options: leave soon for Savannah, go to Fort Sumter, or visit Boone Hall. We decided on the last option based on a recommendation from the hotel concierge and because Fort Sumter would take at least half a day. As we started on the drive to Boone Hall, it began to rain. When we arrived at the gates of the plantation, it began to pour. We struggled with whether or not to visit Boone Hall in the rain and eventually decided to turn back. Five minutes into our return journey, we decided “damn the rain,” changed our minds, and turned back to the plantation. This was the best decision we made on the trip.

Upon entry into Boone Hall, we were rewarded by a magnificent drive through a seemingly never-ending oak tree linked driveway. I have never seen a grander entrance to a home, and this includes all of the castles I have seen in Europe. Inside the plantation, we took shelter from the rain in the cafeteria. There, we saw a Gullah woman acting / performing to educate visitors about the history of the Gullah people. The Gullah people originated from various countries in West Africa and came to Charleston (and other Southeastern cities) to work as slaves on plantations like Boone Hall. The theme of her excellent performance was that during the slave trade to the South, all ethnic groups influenced the others. On the slave ship, Africans from different countries influenced each other on the lower decks were slaves lived. Above, Europeans from different countries (French, Dutch, English, etc.) influenced each other. And of course, the Africans and the European cultures inter-mingled on slave plantations to create modern day Southern culture. Ever heard of Gumbo? This is a classic Southern dish that is thought to have been brought over from the Gullah people.

 After the performance, my dad and I walked through 9 slave cabins, which were turned into several exhibits on African American history, from the time the first slaves arrived in America to the present. I was amazed at the accurate historical records of each and every slave who was transported to the Port of Charleston. My dad commented that the slave cabin exhibit was very enlightening, especially to one who had not experienced American History classes. Before leaving the plantation, I walked through the oak-tree lined driveway (in the rain, which had not let up). What a sight, and what a feeling to walk under those mighty oaks. This will be my most enduring memory from the trip. Rain soaked and happy, we went to the Boone Hall Family Farm to eat lunch prepared from vegetables grown at Boone Hall. Then, it was time to head south to Savannah.

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