Old city records should show how Charleston's boundaries have changed over its history. But where there are holes in the recorded information, the city has living resources to tap. The black seniors of the area know their history, and their knowledge should be sought out.
People of the 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation need to be asked about their memories.
For example, at one time blacks lived below Broad Street. Yes, African Americans lived on Tradd Street near what is now the Coast Guard Station and on Broad Street around the Colonial Lake area.
Calhoun Street, like Broad and Tradd streets, was once the main thoroughfare for people coming from the islands. It would have been normal then to have churches and cemeteries nearby.
The Medical University was once the site of the Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church, which moved to the corner of Charlotte and Elizabeth streets. The new College of Charleston Library, before it was the site of Bishop England High School, was a "colored" cemetery.
If the proper city records don't reflect such ancestral graveyard and cemetery findings, church archives should be searched for information.
Gentrification and relocation of neighborhoods for "new" developments are the primary reasons cemeteries and graveyards have disappeared. But even in cases when the cemetery was closed because there were no caretakers, people in the neighborhoods remained, and they have that knowledge.
Of late, there have been tales of ghosts and residents' inability to sleep in newly built gated communities and housing developments. The underlying presumption tends to be that the land was once home to the dearly departed of another era and/or generation.
Oftentimes, developers just keep their mouths shut until the graves are consumed. When it comes to light that a cemetery once stood on developing project properties, the scramble is on to find quick fixes.
The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium and Burke High School share a common identity: Their land was once a site for the dearly departed. It was called either a potter's or pauper's field.
Local black seniors are never asked to contribute their knowledge of such things. Nobody wants to know. Remember, slaves did evolve to being business-minded entrepreneurs and freedmen with families in this diverse place called Charleston.
Notice about comments: