South Carolina in the Modern Age

South Carolina in the Modern Age

South Carolina in the Modern Age

South Carolina in the Modern Age


Originally published in 1992, South Carolina in the Modern Age was the first history of contemporary South Carolina to appear in more than a quarter century and helped establish the reputation of the Palmetto State's premier historian, Walter Edgar, who had not yet begun the two landmark volumes-South Carolina: A History and The South Carolina Encyclopedia-that also bear his name. Available once again, this illustrated volume chronicles transformational events in South Carolina as the state emerged from the devastation that followed the Civil War and progressed through the challenges of the twentieth century.


South Carolina is one of the most fascinating, yet most often misunderstood, states in the Union. Surveys taken outside the South reveal that “average Americans” usually confuse the Palmetto State with its neighbor to the north. This lack of identity is the result of history and South Carolina’s role in it.

Prior to 1860, what South Carolina and her leaders did was important on both sides of the Atlantic. During the colonial period, South Carolina was the wealthiest mainland British colony—one of the crown jewels of the empire. Between the American Revolution and the outbreak of the Civil War, how the state and its leaders reacted to issues was of concern to politicians in Washington.

Then the events of 1860-61 changed matters. South Carolina led the South out of the Union and into war, a war that was not kind to either the state or the region. Because of its role in the breakup of the Union, the state paid a price— especially in the history books. Because of the war, South Carolina lost a generation of young white men and virtually all of its capital wealth. It recovered from the former, but it has yet to recover from the latter.

With relatively little political clout and a poverty-stricken population, South Carolina disappeared from the national scene. It appeared as if the state had sunk into a lethargy which it did not shake off until after World War II. In South Carolina between 1891 and 1991, appearances were truly deceiving. Within its borders changes were taking place that would enable the state to jump from the eighteenth century to the twentieth in only a matter of years.

Kelly Miller, a sociologist and historian, in 1925 described his native state in this fashion: “South Carolina is the stormy petrel of the Union. She arouses the nation’s wrath and rides upon the storm. There is not a dull period in her history.” Benjamin Brawley, a contemporary of Miller, was even more emphatic when he discussed the role of the Palmetto State: “The little triangle on the map known as South Carolina repre-

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