Charleston Commission on History approves 1919 race riot marker
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Commission on History approved a plaque on a downtown corner marking a 1919 race riot that killed three black Charleston residents and left dozens injured.
In 1919 racial tensions were high across the county. During what is often called the “Red Summer”, coined by the NAACP, violent events harming black people happened throughout America.
According to the Charleston County Public Library Archives, on May 10, 1919 white U.S. Navy soldiers on leave from the Naval Training Center got into a sidewalk altercation with black Charleston residents. The archives cite that the incident began at the corner of Archdale and Beaufain Streets and a riot continued down King Street through the night until early on May 11.
The unrest led to three deaths of black people and dozens of injuries. Chair of the Charleston Commission on History, Harlan Greene, says the citizen board works to accurately educate people.
“There was a flashpoint and a corner in the city of Charleston, the summer of 1919 and some citizens or group has come forward and usually a nonprofit group has come forward to mark that part of our history. Not a necessarily good part of our history, but something we need not to forget. The most interesting thing is how do we get a very complex, nuanced idea across on a platform that may be only has space for X number of letters, so we really have to be truthful, and you really have to cut right to the chase, and hopefully, it will instigate people’s curiosity and they’ll go for more,” Greene says.
The St. Stephen Episcopal Church is sponsoring the market which would be on city property. The Commission continues to edit the marker for grammar and accuracy before approving it.
“But Charleston really does kind of mind history. It’s kind of a natural for here. It’s kind of our natural resource. People come here to learn about the history, and it’s good for us to show that it is not all of one piece. We can educate ourselves, but we can also educate the hundreds of 1000s if not millions of people, you know who come who come down on the streets,” Green says.
The St. Stephen Episcopal Church is sponsoring the marker. The commission edited and approved the plaque. There is no timeline yet for when it will be created and placed.
You can learn more about the incident from the Charleston County Public Library Archives by clicking here.
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