You ought to know my name and my life story, but you probably don’t. I don’t mean to brag because that simply isn’t my nature, but c’mon now, how many people in all of South Carolina history can claim that they were confidants to four different presidents?
What? You want another clue?
Hmm, I will offer that I had a very exclusive upbringing, but not in the blue blood sort of way you might be thinking. See, my mom and dad were slaves, I was born on July 10th, 1875 and all of that excluded me from the possibilities of an easy, care-free life. Still, I had it a lot easier than some of my brothers and sisters. I was the fifteenth of seventeen children and sort of lucky, that's the way I see it, because I wasn’t sold into slavery like a few of my older siblings. It was just the way it was back then, but even as a little girl, I didn’t want to accept things like they were. I wanted to make something out of myself and help other people along the way. That’s all I set out to do, and as it turned out, that’s what happened and a whole lot more.
Not even in my childhood dreams did I think that I would become an advisor to presidents, never thought that I, Mary Jane McLeod, would achieve what I achieved. I will stop all this bragging in a minute, but in 1932 I was named one of America's fifty greatest women. Matter of fact, I was number ten.
Now, that’s something, isn’t it? It kind of locks up the mind to think that a black girl born in 1875, in the little forgotten town of Mayesville, South Carolina could escape the back-breaking cotton fields and go on to earn the respect and admiration of four different presidents, and even that is not the whole story.
We're long-time fans of Joseph McGill's Slave Dwelling Project, which is most deservingly progressing in scope and support as time goes on. What started out as a one-night stay in a slave cabin in South Carolina to raise awareness for the preservation of these structures and the stories of those who lived there is now a full-blown movement.
Less than 10,000 people live in Allendale County which suited me just fine, for it made it far less likely that anyone watched me step over a fence, snag my jeans on barbed wire, and fall to the ground in a sloppy, disorganized, unmanly sort of way. After making sure that my vitals were intact and that my camera still clicked, I walked about 50 yards to photograph one of our state’s 1400 or so National Historic Register Landmarks, in this case, the Smyrna Baptist church.
Brookgreen Gardens is famous for its expansive gardens and impressive sculpture collection (it is America’s first sculpture garden after all). But looking at Brookgreen as an outdoor classroom opens up a whole new world of possibilities. This place beats any textbook out there when it comes to the nature and history unique to this region of South Carolina. Here are a few excursions that offer a deeper look into the whole story of Brookgreen Gardens:
Approximately 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War (though recent studies suggest the number is closer to 850,000). But gunshots were not the only means of death during America's deadliest military conflict. 400,000 soldiers were taken as prisoners of war, and upwards of 56,000 died in captivity. This is almost as many as the fatalities of those fighting in Vietnam. Here we outline POW sites in South Carolina and images we have found throughout our research. Make sure to also check out the SC Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum to do more research on your own, and if you have any information to add to our list please email us!