South Carolina History

South Carolina is one of the 13 original colonies of the United States. European exploration began in 1540, but the explorers brought European diseases that decimated the local Indian population. The English colony of the Province of Carolina was started in Charleston in 1670, with wealthy planters and their slaves, coming from the British Caribbean colony of Barbados. Colonists overthrew the proprietors after the Yamasee War, pushing back the American Indians in 1715-1717. In 1719 the colony was officially made a crown colony, and North Carolina was split off and made into a separate colony in 1729.

South Carolina banded together with the other colonies to oppose British taxation in the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765, and played a major role in resisting Britain. It became independent in March 1776 and joined the United States of America. The Revolution was bloody and hard fought in 1780-81, as the British invaded, captured the American army and finally was driven out.

The cotton gin made the rich soil of the lowlands very profitable for plantations operated by black slaves. The hilly upland areas, with few slaves, were much poorer and a regional conflict underlay the political system. With outspoken leaders such as John C. Calhoun, the state it vied with Virginia as the dominant political and social force in the South. It fought federal tariffs in the 1830s and demanded that its rights to practice slavery be recognized in the territories. With the 1860 election of Republicans under Abraham Lincoln, who vowed to prevent slavery's expansion, the voters demanded secession. In December 1860, the state seceded from the Union and in February 1861 it joined the new Confederate States of America. In April 1861 the American Civil War began when Confederate forces attacked the American fort at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. The Civil War proved devastating to the whites, but freed the blacks from slavery. From 1865 to 1877, South Carolina underwent Reconstruction. Congress shut down the civilian government in 1867, put the Army in charge, gave Freedmen (freed slaves) the vote and prevented ex-Confederates from holding office. A Republican legislature supported by Freedmen, northern Carpetbaggers and white Southern Scalawags created and funded a public school system, and created social welfare institutions. The constitution they passed was kept nearly unaltered for 27 years, and most legislation passed during the Reconstruction years lasted longer than that. By 1877 the white conservatives, called "Redeemers" had regained political power. In the 1880s Jim Crow laws were passed that were especially severe in the state, to create public segregation and control movement of African American laborers. After 1890 almost all blacks lost their vote, not to regain it until 1965.

The Civil War ruined the economy, making it one of the two or three poorest states for the next century. Educational levels were low as public schools were underfunded, especially for African Americans. Most people lived on small farms and grew cotton. The more affluent were landowners, who subdivided the land into farms operated by tenant farmers or sharecroppers, along with land operated by the owner using hired labor. Gradually more industry moved into the Piedmont area, with textile factories that turned the state's raw cotton into yarn and cloth for sale on the international market. Wave after wave of revivals made most people quite religious; most people, white and black alike, were Baptists.

Politically the state was part of the Solid South. Because African Americans were disenfranchised, no black officials were elected between 1900 and the late 1960s. Many went to northern cities during the Great Migration after 1910. Whites rigidly enforced segregation in the Jim Crow era, limiting African Americans' chances for education, representation and free public movement. The Civil Rights laws of the 1960s ended segregation and protected the voting rights of African Americans. The blacks had been affiliated with the Republican Party, but after 1964 became intensely loyal Democrats, while most whites moved in the opposite direction.

The cotton regime ended by the 1950s. As factories were built across the state, the great majority of farmers left agriculture. Service industries, such as tourism, education and medical care grew rapidly, as the textile factories faded after 1970. By 2000 the white majority of South Carolina voted solidly Republican in presidential elections, but state and local government elections were contested by the two parties. The population continued to grow, reaching 4 million in 2000, as coast areas became prime locations for tourists and retirees. With a poverty rate of 13.5%, the state was slightly worse than the national average of 11.7%.

South Carolina History

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