Today I will finish my series on the Charleston:Barbados Connection. There is a wealth of information available online regarding the topic and if you are interested in more details I would encourage you to visit a couple of internet sites such as the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor site or this link to the connection on the Discover South Carolina page. You may also want to take a visit to Charlestowne Landing sometime when you have the opportunity. And of course, I highly recommend Charleston! Charleston! The History of A Southern City, my favorite collection of Charleston History.
Back in the mid-1600's Englands King Charles II established the Carolina Charter after learning from explorers who had come down from the Jamestown Settlement into the areas now occupied by North and South Carolina about an area blessed with abundant natural resources and beauty. King Charles II awarded eight aristocrats who had been very loyal to the Crown with the Carolina Charter. The eight, known as The Lord's Proprietors, included among others a noble gentleman by the name of Sir John Colleton who was a wealthy planter from Barbados. During this time, Barbados was a wildly successful English Colony whose economy was based almost entirely upon the sugar trade. The Lord's Proprietors looked to their newly acquired interest in The Carolina's as a potentially very profitable venture, and chose to base their initial plans for their new holdings on the Colony of Barbados with it's system of plantations supported by slave labor driving an economy based upon a single cash crop.
It is tempting, but nearly impossible to identify the single most obvious connection of Charleston to Barbados. One could argue that it is the "single house" which is designed after the single room width gabled homes in Barbados that were oriented to catch the sea breezes in order to cool the home. Yet another would point to the "rainbow" of "Charleston Colors" adorning homes and businesses today in and around the Holy City of Charleston.
For me though, it is the Gullah Culture, the arts and dialect that captured my interest when I moved to Charleston four years ago. The Gullah dialect is a direct descendant to the Bajan dialect of Barbados. I still remember hearing this Charleston version of spoken language shortly after moving to Charleston back in 2007. I distinctly recall trying to characterize the language style, it was sort of Jamaican sounding, but different still. I was conscious of having to listen very closely in order to follow conversations and interactions. Understanding the historical significance of the connections between Barbados and Charleston helps me to fully appreciate the rather odd sounding words and expressions which still to this day fascinate me. You can hear the influence all over the Lowcountry but it seems to be most prominent directly around Charleston. I think what intrigues me most is to know that the dialect has been passed down through 4 or 5 generations and that the person I am talking to is a direct descendant of one of those early settlers.
Once again, I am reminded of my purpose for writing this blog, to share with others who may have a pioneer spirit within them like me just what life is like here in the Lowcountry. It is often hard to put to words the culture, the history and the nuances of life in the land of palm trees, but I will continue to try and hit the mark. In the meantime have a great Sunday and enjoy todays history post.