In December of 1865, Cpl. Henry Jolly, of the 35th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry, penned a letter to the South Carolina Leader, an African American newspaper based in Charleston, South Carolina, in which he reflected on the racial abuse and hostility towards the freedmen and U. S. Colored Troops in postwar South Carolina.
“1st SC Infantry of African Descent – The 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment was raised from sea island slaves living around Port Royal. Elements of the regiment were formed on Hilton Head in May 1862. In August 1862, the regiment was reorganized near Beaufort at the Smith plantation. It was commanded by the noted abolitionist Thomas W. Higginson who led the Regiment on raids along the Georgia coast. On Jan. 1, 1863, the regiment was formerly mustered into the United States Army. The regiment saw extensive service on the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida Coasts. On Feb. 8, 1864, the regiment was redesignated as the 33rd Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. The regiment assisted in the occupation of Charleston, Savannah, Augusta and other points until it was mustered out on Jan. 31, 1866.”
Quite a humbling experience, standing before the gravesite of carpenter, fugitive slave, freedom-seeker, and abolitionist William Craft (ca. 1824-January 27, 1900). I almost missed it. The story of William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery is legendary. Read it today: Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860).♥
We participated in the Charleston “Days of Grace,” march and conference held in Charleston, South Carolina on September 5, 2015. At one point during the march, my father introduced me to Rev. Barber (I was behind the camera), and he spoke with the family of Walter Scott.
“It would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again”—President Barack Obama (6/26/15)
In recent weeks, the Mother Emanuel AME Church community and the family of Walter Scott have shown the world the radical possibilities of resilience, love, and forgiveness. However, as the President reminded us at Senator Pinckney’s funeral, real healing will take hard work.
Guns inflicted the fatal wounds of April and June, but racism, poverty and the politics of rancor and discord have long inflicted grave wounds on the state’s poor and most vulnerable people. This Labor Day weekend, people of faith and conscience will come together in Charleston to remember our fallen friends and to reflect on the racism and hatred that lay at the root of their deaths, as well as the violence that tears away at the fabric of our communities.
Specifically, the gathering will call for an end to racist violence and the transformation of our commemorative landscape—our monuments, markers, and historic sites—to fully reflect South Carolina’s traditions of diversity and democracy. We will also come together to honor Clementa Pinckney and to affirm the moral principles that he stood for as pastor and public servant. These include:
> An end to discriminatory policing > Expanded voting rights > A living wage and collective bargaining rights for all working people > Affordable healthcare and Medicaid expansion > Quality education as a basic human right > An end to gun violence
Out of this mass gathering and a one-day strategy conference, we will build on the efforts of many grassroots organizations who have worked tirelessly and often thanklessly over the years to bring about a better South Carolina.
If you believe that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and if you understand that what happened at Emanuel AME has implications far beyond Charleston, and if you believe that we can build a movement together to save South Carolina’s soul and the soul of the nation, then join us as we proclaim “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!”