The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina

The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina

The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina

The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina


This book presents a concise approach to the major themes and events that define contemporary South Carolina.

The captivating, colorful, and controversial history of South Carolina continues to warrant fresh explorations. In this sweeping story of defining episodes in the state's history, accomplished historians Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole trace the importance of race relations, historical memory, and cultural life in the progress of the Palmetto State from its colonial inception to the present day.

In the discussion of contemporary South Carolina that makes up the majority of this volume, the authors map the ways through which hard-won economic and civil rights advancements, a succession of progressive state leaders, and federal court mandates operated in tandem to bring a largely peaceful end to the Jim Crow era in South Carolina, in stark contrast to availablethe violence wrought elsewhere in the South. This volume speaks directly to the connections between the state's past, present, and future, and it serves as a valuable point of entrance for new inquiries into South Carolina's diverse and complex heritage.

Jack Bass is a professor emeritus of humanities and social sciences at the College of Charleston. He is the author or coauthor of seven other books about the American South.

W. Scott Poole is an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston. Poole is the author of six previous volumes on American history.


South Carolinians began their fourth century looking not behind, but ahead. Yet, as William Faulkner observed, especially about the South, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

After vigorous statewide debate in 2000 over the Confederate battle flag and whether it symbolized heritage or hate, the legislature moved it from the State House dome, where it had flown for almost four decades, to a flagpole on the capitol grounds. a small step, perhaps, but important symbolically—a turn from the legends of “heritage” and toward historical truth. Its presence remained sufficiently provocative for the state naacp that it launched a boycott.

A significant factor in the flag’s removal from the dome came in a statement signed by more than one hundred historians in the state. They documented beyond doubt that the direct cause of the Civil War, so devastating for this state, was not the idea that a state had the right to determine its destiny. the issue was slavery. That historical truth cut down any attempt at a moral argument by flag proponents.

Then came the stunning revelation by Essie Mae Washington-Williams after the death of Senator Strom Thurmond, a complicated and iconic political figure who many identified as a symbol of allegiance to the state’s racial past, that she, an African American, was his daughter. Her announcement was followed by a full acceptance of her by his South Carolina family. the addition of her name to those of his other children on a State House monument to Thurmond signaled acceptance of something new by the state as a whole.

Recognition began to develop that the legacy of good manners had provided both a veneer of civility and a cover of silence over a historic range of matters related to race and poverty that remained unaddressed. This developing recognition in itself reflected change and signaled a state in transition.

Not long before his death, author and philosopher James McBride Dabbs recalled that it was the traditional South Carolina emphasis on manners that first got him involved in civil rights. He was referring to 1944, when Governor . . .

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