Election 2008

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The Primary States: South Carolina

January 16, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
South Carolina, the first state to declare independence from British rule and the first to secede from the Union, stretches from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Lowcountry, the mythic coastal region that includes Rhett Butler’s hometown. Four million people call South Carolina their home, and nearly one third of them are African American. The southern state hosts the third presidential primary—after New Hampshire, and Michigan—and in the past, has been instrumental in cementing candidates for both parties.

The Political Picture

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South Carolina’s recent political past includes the almost-40-year tenure of Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, formerly the state governor and an often controversial figure who served until 2005. This summary on the brink of the 2008 primary includes some historical perspective on the state’s ability to influence the final outcome.

Andy Gobeil’s political blog, The Big Picture, focuses on South Carolina’s national and regional spheres of influence.

19th-Century Beauties

Columbia, once a mule market but now resplendent in yellow jasmine (the state’s official flower), is the state’s capital and largest city. Antebellum homes dot both the city and outlying rural areas. Most of these homes were built in South Carolina’s heyday as an agricultural powerhouse; cotton was its most famous crop. The capital also boasts the nation’s largest Army training arena at Fort Jackson. Columbia’s modern city center is a boomtown, with an ambitious revitalization project underway. But it’s the gracefully aging antebellum and plantation homes—including the famous James K. Polk House—that draw the most visitors.

Frankly, My Dear …

Charleston, where the Civil War’s first shots were fired on April 12, 1861, is a seaside tourist favorite, with cobblestone streets, colonial homes, and glimpses of a genteel lifestyle of yesteryear. Charleston was founded in 1680 by British colonists and enslaved Africans by way of Barbados. A century later, a wave of French-Haitians also settled here. This heady mix of cultures is still reflected in Charleston’s architecture, food, and customs. Charleston is rated by Condé Nast Traveler as a Top-10 U.S. destination and a Top-20 global destination. Mint juleps are a favorite city cocktail; for the uninitiated, think Cuban mojito, with bourbon instead of rum.

Flap This

During Prohibition, Charleston was among the most flagrant violators of the Eighteenth Amendment. The Charleston, a dance named for this city’s free-spirited rebellion, was composed in 1923 by “stride” pianist James P. Johnson, and exhibited on Broadway. It became an instant, arm-flapping, classic: the uninhibited girls who danced in illicit speakeasies with rouged knees and bobbed hair were dubbed “flappers.” The Charleston remains very much alive today among swing-dance and Lindy Hop communities, both in South Carolina and nationally. Video clips chronicling the dance from its origins to a (minor) modern dance revival are found here.

Speak Lowcountry?

Charleston is part of a 2,600-square-mile, mostly wild coastal region known colloquially as the Lowcountry, comprising miles of rugged white beaches and islands. Hilton Head Island is the area’s most popular resort, and annually hosts the Heritage Golf Tournament. In the Sea Islands, which stretch south into Georgia, African Americans who have made their home along the shores, still speak the Gullah dialect. The creole Gullah has its roots in English and west and central African languages. (Many fear it will die out soon.)  Because much of the three-county Lowcountry is uninhabited and inaccessible, it seems a sound idea to have man’s best friend along on any outing. Dogs in the Lowcountry are held in high esteem; read about the beloved pooches on the (fantastically named) Lowcountry Dog Blog.
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