“If it was not for the slaves, Georgetown would not have been developed,” said Captain Rod during our Low Country Plantation Tour.
With his southern humor, pointing out a bald eagle and its nest every now and then, a lighthouse, numerous plantations, a junkyard boat, etc., Captain Rod explained how the first English-speaking settlement in South Carolina was established on the coast in 1670. For the first thirty years the colonists had little success on this land, but by about 1700 they discovered that rice, imported from Asia, grew well in the inland valley swamps of the Low Country. Throughout the 1700s the economy of South Carolina was based significantly on the farming of rice. In 1700, 300 tons of American rice was shipped to England.
As rice grew more profitable, the towns of Charleston and Georgetown in South Carolina grew into wealthy ports that imported slaves from West Africa and exported rice to European countries that paid a premium for the “Carolina .” Between 1505 and 1888 around 12 million Africans were enslaved and brought to the New World.
“Did you know that they found rice in the pyramids?” asked Captain Rod.
It is debated how exactly rice was brought over to North America. Some say a damaged ship was forced to dock in the Carolinas. In return for repairs, the captain of the ship gave the colonizers a bag of rice. It is also believed that slaves from Africa rice from their land.
While the land has been reclaimed by wild grass and a few river alligators, there are still two plantations in Myrtle Beach that grow commercially distributed rice.
Slaves and their descendants have contributed a great deal to this country. We passed by the Friendfield Plantation where a child slave, Jim Robinson, lived. He one day fell off of a tree 25 feet tall and broke his arm. He was taken to the doctor who wrapped his arm and ordered that the bandage be changed to avoid an infection. Well, the bandages were not changed and the young boy’s arm had to be amputated. Feeling sorry for him, the doctor adopted Jim Robinson, who later became so successful his great great-grand daughter became First Lady of the United States. Her name is Michele .
And a research team from Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, has also concluded that the nation’s 44th president, President Barack , is also the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, the first documented African legally enslaved for life in American history.