Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: South Carolina

If it Had not Been for the Slaves….

Plantation Tour

“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, 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.

Visiting the Hobcaw Barony Mansion in South Carolina

Hobcaw Barony

Last night my family returned from South Carolina. Myrtle Beach was where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and we loved it enough to return for our 9th year wedding anniversary – this time with two children.

It was a lovely trip, with one of my favorite sites being the Hobcaw Barony – 16,000 acres of land which Native Americans called “hobcaw,” meaning between the waters.
The land was purchased by a Wall Street legend, presidential advisor and South Carolina native Bernard M. Baruch in 1905 for a winter hunting retreat. The Hobcaw Barony House is 13,000 square foot, with 12 ½ bathrooms and 16 bedrooms, nine of which are master bedrooms. In 1932, Winston Churchill was a guest in this house. We were shown his favorite sitting chair. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt stayed for what was supposed to be two weeks but which was extended to four weeks. Other notable guests included Woodrow Wilson and Ralph Pulitzer.

The house was welcoming, with black and white family photos everywhere, the sun shining in through the windows, and in a number of cases, visitors being allowed to sit on the furniture. Taking care of the Hobcaw Barony was evidently no easy task, as at times the Baruch’s had as many as 150 servants!

Bernard Baruch’s eldest child, Belle W. Baruch, later began purchasing the property from her father beginning in 1936. Belle was an accomplished horsewoman, a sailor and she also had an airplane which she flew herself. By 1956, Belle owned Hobcaw Baron entirely. Upon her death in 1964, it was transferred to the Belle W. Baruch Foundation for a nature and research preserve. It consists of over 37 buildings that represent the 18th and 19th century rice cultivation and 20th century winter retreats.

We arrived to this house by a ferry, which included a tour of the surrounding Georgetown plantations. Later I learned that a two-hour bus tour is available year round which for $20 not only takes you inside the Hobcaw Barony house, but also includes a drive by Bellefield Planation and stables, the home of Belle Belle Baruch, a drive through Friendfield Village, the last 19th century slave village on the Waccamaw Neck, and information on coastal ecosystems, native wildlife and endangered species.

The Hobcaw Barony definitely deserved at least a two-hour tour. Oh well, guess that gives me a good reason to return once again to Myrtle Beach.

For a tour of this beautiful and inspiring land, visit: or call 843-546-4623

Is Africa Next in Line?


In March of 2009, when I was six months pregnant with my second child, I was invited to attend a tour of the 09L Army Interpretation/Translation program in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. For years, Chaldeans and Arab community leaders from all over the U.S. were gathered at Fort Jackson to be educated about the program, return home and spread the information they’d learned in order to recruit new 09L soldiers.

I wrote an article about this program, which included a quote by the chief instructor and course developer at the school. He’d told us, “Although there has been a slight shift in recruiting efforts, I don’t think it will slow us down. By end of the year, we’ll start recruiting Farsi, Dari and Pashto (Afghanistan) language. By next year, the African language.”

I wondered how far ahead of us the government really was. When I saw what was happening in Mali, then Algeria in the last couple of days, I figured, they’re so ahead of us that by the time we utilize our freedom of speech, it no longer matters. The event has been already set in motion some 50 years ago. Meanwhile, we’re crawling as slow as a snail to comprehended and catch up with a fraction of what the government did 50 years ago.