Remember last week when I railed against Middleton Place Plantation for the boring and white-washed history they presented? Well, today I wanted to share the McLeod plantation (on James Island), which is the opposite of Middleton Place in so many ways.
McLeod does not boast sprawling acreage, grazing farm animals, or intricate planned gardens. But what it lacks in ornamental grandeur, it makes up for in the fascinating history presented on the estate. I knew this plantation was going to be different when I read the introductory paragraph of the brochure:
"McLeod Plantation was built on the riches of sea island cotton - and on the backs of enslaved people whose work and culture are embedded in the Lowcountry’s very foundation. It is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants that persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality, and justice. All of their stories - black and white, enslaved and free - are given their due. After years of careful research and restoration, McLeod Plantation Historic Site invites visitors to embark upon an in-depth exploration of the lives of those people whose stories are essential to understanding Charleston’s complex past and helped shape who we, as a nation, are today."
That last line though! #whyhistorymatters
And there it was in one paragraph, everything I wished Middleton Place had addressed. The estate takes you through more than 200 years of Charleston's history, covering everything from the enslavement of West Africans, the development of South Carolina's plantation economy, the plantations strategic importance during the civil war, the realities and struggles of emancipation, the emergence of Gullah Culture, and the legacy of plantation economies and cultures into the twentieth century.
Both Emily and I were really impressed by this plantation, and it offered a fascinating cultural contrast to Middleton Place. I highly recommend visiting and taking one of their fascinating tours!