Homeowners seek to drop ‘plantation’ from their neighborhood signs

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A name harkening back to a romanticized view of the antebellum period in South Carolina is now facing a call for an edit. A group of homeowners in the Belle Hall Plantation subdivision are asking their neighbors to support their bid to remove the word plantation from neighborhood signage.

Brigid Sullivan and Daniel Guttentag live in the neighborhood and are members of Belle Hall for All, an advocacy group pushing for the name change.

“This summer after George Floyd died I started thinking about things that I hadn’t thought about before, and that word plantation struck me,” Sullivan said. “It does have a very negative connotation, and I don’t think it fits our wonderful neighborhood.”

They brought the idea and a petition of more than 200 neighborhood residents to the Homeowners Association.

The HOA agreed to take a subdivision-wide vote and sent out ballots this week. Voting is open until April 20.

“Our proposal was always to have a vote because we feel as though the name should reflect the feeling of the community, and if the community isn’t in favor of it then we are just not ready to make this change,” Guttentag said. “If we lose the vote of course I’d be disappointed but at the same time I’d still love this community just as much as when I moved here.”

Sullivan and Guttentag say the they have no desire to rewrite history or to foist their efforts onto sites like Magnolia Plantation. The problem is there’s no historical evidence that Belle Hall Plantation ever existed in this location.

Michael Allen is a retired National Park Ranger with a degree in history education and long CV packed with work on a number of history-based projects. He calls himself a community historian.

“We can say definitively that this area was never referred to as Belle Hall Plantation. If I drive a mile away to Snee Farm, that was the historic name of that plantation,” Allen said. “There were a lot of subdivisions built in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s in which plantation is the subtext of their names. Now some may have been sitting on physical spaces that had that name but others were just done for marketing reasons.”

Allen says there were plantations where the neighborhood is now, but none with the name Belle Hall.

He says part of the area was part of the Egypt Plantation.

Thomasena Stokes-Marshall is a former member of the Mount Pleasant Town Council, serving four terms between 1998 and 2015. She also lives in the neighboring Snowden Community, and says getting rid of the word would promote a more welcoming environment.

“The fact is that the majority of the Snowden residents are descendants of people who were enslaved and worked the Snowden Community as well as this area,” Stokes-Marshall said. “When we talk about the word plantation, it has a negative connotation – memories of the horrors that their families had to endure during the time of slavery.”

Guttentag says renaming the signs would cost around $2,000 which Belle Hall for All has offered to pay for. He says the HOA estimates it would cost significantly more than that.

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