African American Family History - Charleston

Trip Start Nov 26, 2010
Trip End Nov 27, 2010

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Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Saturday, November 27, 2010

African American Family History - Charleston The Old Slave Mart Museum

"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if we face with courage, need not be lived again."

Maya Angelou

On my last trip to Charleston, I made a point of visiting the Old Slave Mart Museum.

Some passengers on one of my Charleston – Miami flights told me about the museum. Visit or call 843-958-6467.

I took the bus to the museum for about $1.75 plus 30 cents for a transfer. There are free trolleys during the month of December . You can catch the trolley at the Visitors Center.

I asked the driver how to get to the Old Slave Mart Museum at 6 Chalmers Street. She directed me to the French Quarter. Many people think that the slave market was located there.  The museum is hidden on a side street.

The southern charm of the Charleston people is displayed in their friendliness. They love to talk to anyone. However, the people of Charleston don't like to talk about slavery or show it to tourist. You have to do your research. The roots of slavery run deep in Charleston and so does the pain. It is a complex city.

If you are a genealogy buff and looking for family history, you learn to uncover family secrets. I am not looking to relive pain and suffering. I only wish to know from where my family came from. Who am I a descendant of?

40 % of African American slaves came from Charleston. Charleston is a genealogy goldmine for many African Americans.  I am on a journey to find my great-great mother’s family line who came from South Carolina. A visit to the Charleston Old Slave Mart Museum is part of my journey. The museum is owned by the City of Charleston, so it not as graphic or stomach-turning to me as the Slave Museum in Baltimore.  However, the history at the Slave Mart is eye-opening.

Tip: No photos allowed. So take pen and paper.

The Slave Mart Museum tells the story of domestic slavery. In 1786, Northern States banned importing enslaved Africans.  Ryan’s Mart opened in July 1, 1856 because abolitionists targeted outdoor auctions. The City Council banned slave selling on streets around Custom Houses.

African Americans sold at the Ryan’s Mart didn’t come from Africa. They were born in the U.S. They were the children and grandchildren of captured Africans. They came from Maryland, Virginia and the upper South.

What I found most surprising was the display about free people of color owning slaves. Some free people of color bought family and friends or workers, but others bought slaves to be accepted and climb the social ladder. South Carolina had the  second largest population of free color blacks in lower South. Two cited examples of black slave owners are William Ellison who sold slave girls; Jehu Jones who was born a slave in 1769. Jones belonged to Christopher Rogers, a tailor. He bought his freedom in 1789. He also owned slaves.

 We didn’t necessarily treat our slaves any better.

Now those facts are missing from the history books.

Upstairs there is another exhibit from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture UNESCO Slave Route Project “Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery” from NY Public Library.

Tip; The Old Slave Mart Museum has information on visiting these recommended sites:

1.     Aiken-Rhett House

2.     Avery Research

3.     Drayton Hall Plantation

4.     Magnolia Plantation

5.     Middleton Plantation

6.     Charleston Museum

7.     Caw Caw Interpretive Center

8.     Penn Center

9.     Boone-Hall Plantation

10. Hopsewee Plantation

11. ACE Basin

12.  Georgetown Rice Museum

13. Hampton Plantation

Don’t have time to visit all the sites individually. Go on  a quick tour of Charleston by making a  reservation with Sites and Insights Tours.

Tip: Visit Alluette’s Cafe for Lunch located near the Visitor’s Center. 

Alluette is known as Charleston’s Lady Soul. She was featured in O Magazine.

Tip: The must have” souvenir to buy are the Sweetgrass baskets. The Sweetgrass handicraft has become a national treasure and increase in value.

Visit my blog for photos and more about my other Charleston visits:

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Shallie Bey on

Thanks again for sharing your travel experience. I enjoyed your descriptions and insights. It is almost like being with you. The pictures are great.

Gadema Korboi Quoquoi on

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skychi on


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