During our vacation in South Carolina, we spent an entire day at Boone Hall Plantation, which is right outside of Charleston. This plantation is one of the oldest working plantations remaining in the south. Not only are its farms still producing massive amounts of produce, it still has many of the buildings on grounds from when slaves were the labor force behind the plantation. There are slave homes still standing that now serve as individual exhibits about the slave and Gullah culture.
Like many places in Charleston and the surrounding area, sweet grass baskets are incredibly popular and have become a form of art. At the market in Charleston, this plantation, and many other locations, men and women can still be seen making these baskets all day long. I was intrigued with this and the people doing it. While in the market in Charleston one day, I approached this women (seen below) and asked if I could take her picture while she was working on a basket and working a booth. While she told me I could not take her picture, she proceeded to tell me about herself and how she got to that little market booth. She was educated and worked in the field of medicine, but realized that this art needed to be passed on to live for generations to come. Instead of enjoying the pleasures of a life working in the field of medicine, she sits outside in this market booth everyday to promote her family history. and heritage. She taught her grandchildren how to make these baskets and has ensured that her art will live on. As a disclaimer, she didn't allow me to take her picture because others had done so without asking her permission and put her on post cards and promotional pieces. She pulled out an old ragged post card and showed me a prime example. I respected that and was glad that I asked, but since she knew I wouldn't put myself on a postcard, she offered to let me take a picture with her, which, of course, I did. The result was more valuable than any picture I could have taken. I was truly inspired by her, and I was reminded of my love for people and their stories. Appearances say one thing, but a story may say something so much different and more powerful. It was a beautiful experience.
While at Boone Hall, I did get the opportunity to capture a glimpse of how these baskets are made without revealing the faces of the women working on them day in and day out.
As far as other things on the grounds, Boone Hall is probably best known for the path leading up to the home that is a little less than a mile and covered in mossy Oak trees. Oaks Avenue, as it is sometimes called, is an iconic sight in the area for sure, and it did not disappoint. The home on the planation is the third house to stand on that land but was lived in by former owners of the plantation. You might recognize it from The Notebook where it is seen as Allie's house. We toured the house, the gardens in the front yard, and rode on a tractor trailer through all the land still actively used for farming.
My favorite thing we saw on the grounds of the planation by far was the presentation about the Gullah culture from a woman whose family lived it. She explained to us about their dialect that they created to speak without being understood (which was just really fast down-home english), the songs of their culture that included coded messages about coming escapes and underground railroad arrivals, and about how groups were taken from Africa to areas of America where they made their own cultures, of which Gullah is just one. It was fascinating, and the woman who did the presentation was captivating. It truly was the best part of the experience because it brought everything to life. This is one of my favorite things that she said:
For those of you who are not into history, you probably didn't enjoy this post as much, but I have a love for history, especially the time periods of and slavery in America and the holocaust. That may seem a little twisted, but I love studying the documents and writings of the people being oppressed. The emotions and stories are unlike any other. I can't really explain it, but I hope you were able to appreciate this planation and its history at least a little bit through this. We spent almost a whole day there, and I still feel like I could have found something else to explore about the history that took place on the same paths I was walking.
After exploring, we went down the road to the Boone Hall Farms Market where we got to see all the fresh produce including fruits, vegetables, nuts and so much more. They had their own little farmers market. There was a restaurant too, which is where we finished our adventure with some good food.