Old Slave Mart Museum brings to life dark history of Charleston

The building was used as an auction site to sell people of African descent.
The Old Slave Mart Museum is a building where people of African descent were sold into slavery...
The Old Slave Mart Museum is a building where people of African descent were sold into slavery in the 1850's and 60's(Raphael James Live 5 News)
Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 2:32 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Walk into the Old Slave Mart Museum in downtown and you will be standing in a place that holds a dark history of Charleston and America.

“You’re going to step foot on sacred ground. The museum itself is situated in an historic alleyway that back in the 1850′s and 60′s was used as an auction location to sell people of African descent,” museum research coordinator Rachel Campbell said.

The Old Slave Mart was originally part of a slave market known as Ryan’s Slave Mart, which covered a large enclosed lot between Chalmers and Queen streets, according to the museum’s website.

Live 5 anchor Raphael James spoke with employees of the museum on Tuesday. It’s part of a special series in honor of Black History Month. You can watch the segment below.

The building sits along Chalmers Street, not far from the Four Corners of Law. According to the museum’s website, “throughout the first half of the 19th century, slaves brought into Charleston were sold at public auctions held on the north side of the Exchange and Provost building.”

After the city prohibited public slave auctions in 1856, enclosed slave markets sprang up along Chalmers, State, and Queen streets. One such market was Ryan’s Mart, established by City Councilman and broker Thomas Ryan and his business partner James Marsh.”

More than 100 years after the end of slavery, the atmosphere of the building still evokes a somber mood. But many visitors leave with a feeling of hope because of all that descendants of Africans have achieved in America.

“We went from being enslaved, to having people in these high positions,” Maya Simmons said. Simmons is the museum’s social media coordinator.

For more details on the Old Slave Mart Museum, including admission and hours, click the link.

Normal business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday - Saturday. For the month of February in observance of Black History Month, it is also open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

In honor of Black History Month, Live 5 is hosting a series of virtual conversations to highlight the struggles, contributions and significant events inspired by African Americans that have shaped America and the Lowcountry.

The interviews will stream on the Live 5 Facebook page and website Tuesday and Thursday nights at 10 p.m. during the month of February. Viewers with the Live 5 app may also watch the conversations on Amazon, Apple, and Roku TV.

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