This year’s festival will celebrate the lives of two of South Carolina’s most influential musicians—John Blackwell and Skipp Pearson—both of whom died earlier this year.
Blackwell was a Columbia native who landed his breakthrough appearance playing with Patti LaBelle on her Grammy-winning LP, Live! One Night Only. In 2000, Prince recruited Blackwell to play drums in his band, New Power Generation, which he did for more than a decade. Blackwell appears on several of Prince’s LPs, including 2003’s N.E.W.S.
Pearson, South Carolina’s Ambassador of Jazz, was a native of Orangeburg where he purchased his first saxophone for $.50. During his more than 50 year career, Pearson shared the stage with Otis Redding, Parri LaBelle, Miles Davis, and Sam Cooke, among many others. In 2008, Pearson performed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball in Washington. For nearly 17 years, he played jazz at Hunter-Gatherer every Thursday.
To honor the memory of these two musicians, the Jubilee Festival will celebrate the musical lineage of South Carolina with a headlining performance by Cheri Maree. Maree is an international recording artist, songwriter and author who brings “soul jazz” to the center stage. A multi-talented vocalist and musician raised in Columbia, S.C., Cheri’s eclectic sound and style have graced the stage with legendary Grammy-winning artists, including Patti LaBelle, Al Jarreau, Hootie and the Blowfish and Brian McKnight.
A handful of other performances from South Carolina musicians – representing a variety of genres, including R&B, jazz, gospel and soul – will take place throughout the festival.
Jubilee will feature historic storytelling, artist demonstrations and family-friendly activities. Throughout the day, guests are invited to take house tours of the Mann-Simons Site and the Modjeska Monteith Simkins House for $1 and take the African American Historic Sites Bus Tour for $2. In addition, there will be a variety of outdoor vendors selling food, beverages, art and wares.
Historic Columbia invites you to experience the free Jubilee festival at the Mann-Simons Site (1403 Richland Street) from 11 am – 6 pm on Saturday, September 16.
We were all amazed at the total solar eclipse that made its historic path over South Carolina this past Monday. Thanks to everyone who joined us from near and far to witness history in the making #OnThisSpot in Columbia, S.C.
There were a few pieces published at the end of last week that we want to highlight, just in case you missed them. The following article was published initially in The Columbia Star on August 17.
In the Path of Totality
By John Sherrer, director of cultural resources, Historic Columbia
Have you ever been in the path of something that you cannot escape? Have you ever been faced with an event that cannot be avoided? Such situations often elicit anxiety or even dread. What if you knew exactly when and where such an event was to occur? What would you do? How would you prepare?
Rather than with anxiety and dread, it has been with rapt anticipation that Columbians have readied themselves for an astronomical event noteworthy of history books. We, and the anticipated hundreds of thousands of visitors to the capital city, stand in path of totality. On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cast us in darkness. Day will become night, as this breathtaking phenomenon impacts the city like no other has in generations.
Stories of earlier solar eclipses, recorded by The State newspaper reveal the concerns, preparations and observations of our forebears while providing us with intriguing glimpses into the capital city they knew. For instance, the total solar eclipse of June 8, 1918 found Columbia lying far northeast from its path of totality. Leading up to the event, which would ultimately cast a modest shadow on the city, writers offered that, “The moon and sun in their glory cannot greatly eclipse Columbia.” Looking forward, on June 12, a correspondent concluded, “We ought to be able to pay some attention to the next eclipse, which is scheduled for 2017. The [First World] War should be over by that time, even according to . . . some of our own choicest pessimists.”
A little less than two decades earlier, on May 29, 1900, Columbians and other South Carolinians witnessed an eclipse of greater local impact, as they found themselves just outside of the path of totality for an event that engrossed most citizens but particularly “scientists, professors, students, ministers and ladies galore,” who traveled to the town of Little Mountain for a better view. Their journey involved rising early, making their respective ways to various electric streetcar stops and congregating at the train station where they boarded eight cars for the 30-mile trek.
They carried with them window panes and broken bottles caked in smoke from “lightwood splinter,” or fat wood to protect themselves from the eclipse’s harmful light. Following the event, in which animals were said to bed down for the night and birds ceased their songs, the 450-strong crowd returned to Columbia, many with “sooty nose or blackened cheek” from their protective “glasses” and several suffering from “barked shoes [and] torn dresses.” These inconveniences aside, their brush with the path of totality left many of them with an incomparable lifetime memory.
Soon, we, too, will experience an event of our lives. Unlike those of our predecessors’ our solar eclipse experience places us directly in the path of totality. But, while Columbia will be bathed in total darkness, albeit briefly, the sun and the moon will not truly eclipse the excitement and celebration citizens of and visitors to the capital city will enjoy during this once-in-a-lifetime event #OnThisSpot where #HistoryIsCool.
And this article was part of our #ThrowbackThursday collaboration with Cola Today.
Total Eclipses #OnThisSpot
The last total eclipse to cross the US was in 1918, but on the eastern seaboard, it only crossed through Orlando.
The last time the path of totality touched South Carolina was on May 28, 1900.
The very edge of the path skirted the City of Columbia creating a dusky haze for a few moments, according to eye witness accounts.
USC’s Garnet and Black noted that a total solar eclipse would be visible in Columbia on May 28, 1900 in their annual school calendar (they made it a holiday).
South Carolinian Oscar Montgomery Lieber (eldest son of Francis Lieber, who lived at South Carolina College and is the namesake of the admissions building) traveled to Labrador in 1860 on an “Eclipse Expedition” and recorded his findings in an attempt to have them published (it never was).
During the 1900 eclipse, some folks were not too impressed with the spectacle. John Coleman Feaster, a native of Fairfield County was a farmer who wrote in his diary on May 28, 1900: “We all saw the total eclipse of the Sun this AM, i.e. Gussie, Wife, Self, and Pen James. I plowed some corn and watermelons this A.M. Wife and Gussie gone to Pelt’s.” (But were they Bradford watermelons, tho?)
Apparently nonplussed by the potential for cosmic event, the State only mentioned the total eclipse once in their May 28, 1900 issue. The next day? Almost every page was devoted to the event.
Why should you get pumped over this eclipse? Solar eclipses aren’t uncommon. Usually, however, you have to travel out of your way to see them—swim to the middle of the ocean, freeze in Labrador, etc. Never again in our lifetimes will the path of totality cross through our backyards. So while people from Texas and Maine and Nevada are scrambling to find a Columbia hotel room, we can post up in our lawn chairs for an early happy hour next Monday.
By James Quint, director of education, Historic Columbia
During its 230-year-history, many travelers ventured to Columbia in order to interact with politicians and businessmen in the budding state capital. Even more travelled here to work, to trade, or to sell their goods from the far corners of the state. Some come to learn at Columbia’s colleges and universities. Unquestionably, the most famous visitor of the 18th century was George Washington when he made his stop during his tour of the South in 1791.
On August 21, hundreds of thousands of guests will arrive in the Midlands, as it has been named the best place on the East Coast to watch the total solar eclipse with 2 minutes 36 seconds of totality. As our state prepares to welcome record crowds, city services, law enforcement, cultural organizations and a variety of other groups prepare for an influx not seen since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987.
While Myrtle Beach and Charleston may be viewed as the tourist meccas of South Carolina, and to be fair there are many others, including Columbia, our city has an array of engaging activities to ensure a positive experience for those visiting during this historic weekend. Residents and visitors will look to the sky at 2:41 p.m. on to see the Great American Eclipse, which may be one of the most visually impressive events of their lifetime.
Undoubtedly visitors from all over the world will want to learn more about Columbia’s history and culture, which is why Historic Columbia has planned a series of events and tours to engage them in our rich past.
Our community’s longtime connections with the military will be explored during a Historic Water Balloon Battle Happy Hour on Friday, August 18 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. This popular annual event will explore military tactics in ways that will also cool participants in famously hot Columbia with more than 1,700 water balloons. Thousands of water balloons will be discharged in four battles tracing tactics used in the Revolutionary War, World War I and later 20th century conflicts.
Walking tours of Main Street and the Vista will be offered simultaneously at 9 and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings and are perfect options for folks to explore the area’s architecture, development and history.
More than 600 people will gather at the historic Robert Mills House & Gardens on Monday afternoon to watch the Eclipse. While this event is sold out, the gardens and grounds are open daily to the public and free to access during normal business hours – so be sure to come and visit on another day.
Just as city leaders and residents welcomed George Washington in 1791, we hope you’ll join us in welcoming the thousands who will arrive in the Midlands and encourage them to learn more about our city and county. Visit historiccolumbia.org to learn more about the events scheduled during Total Eclipse Weekend.
We are getting so excited about the historic total eclipse coming to Columbia in just two weeks! Whether you’re a seasoned celestial aficionado, or a newbie to historic astronomical phenomenon, we’ve got all your eclipse viewing needs covered at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills!
They have been the subject of legends, seen as dark omens for kings, and in the lyrics of popular songs. Unless you have been living on the dark side of the moon, you know about the total eclipse coming on Monday, August 21. While looking through Historic Columbia’s museum collection for a particular book, I recently discovered a volume that caught my eye because of its small 4-by-5 inch size.
The book’s cover read: Peter Parley’s Tales About the Sun, Moon, and Stars. With numerous engravings. Philadelphia, Desilver, Thomas & Co. 1836. Curious, I carefully opened it. I was immediately taken by the detailed and artistic engravings scattered through its pages. Going back to the introduction I learned that this was one in a series of children’s books. Since the average fourth grader knows more about astronomy than I do, I kept reading.
Among other astronomical facts and observations that Parley, the pen-name of author and publisher Samuel Griswold Goodrich, described was a total eclipse he had viewed some 20 years before. He observed it all through a piece of smoked glass. He was especially interested in the changes in nature and behavior of the animals around him:
“The air grew chill as if it were evening; the whole face of nature was dark as the evening twilight; the birds ceased their songs and retired to rest. I well remember to have seen an old hen, apparently much disturbed, retire to her accustomed shelter, where she gathered her brood of twelve chickens under her wing, as if for the night.”
The plain language and conversational tone of the book was different than a modern reader might expect from one published in the first half of the 19th century. While written for children, it does not talk down to them.
Some books in our collection are inscribed either on the blank front or back pages. Frederick Foster signed this book with his name multiple times in 1844. He did so in a hand that looks like a young person learning cursive and making the letters his own. Unfortunately, there are no other clues to help know more about Frederick, so for now his story is lost to time.
Goodrich (Parley) did a great job explaining the mechanics of how an eclipse occurs, but he also wrote fondly about their fleeting magic. On August 21, for those brief minutes I will do my best to forget about the how’s and why’s of the eclipse and focus simply on its natural wonder. If only I had some chickens to watch, too.
In honor of one of Historic Columbia’s most popular tours returning next week, here are some highlights of just a few of the countless interesting stories hidden in the historic Elmwood Cemetery. James Henley Thornwell was a professor at South Carolina College who joined the faculty in 1837 and replaced William Campbell Preston as the institution’s president. Thornwell’s term is best remembered for the “Great Biscuit Rebellion of 1852” in which students and faculty clashed over compulsory dining rules and the almost 40% of the student body quit school in protest. In November 1854, Thornwell resigned his presidency to accept a chair position at the Columbia Theological Seminary, today’s Robert Mills House. Just two years after Thornwell’s move to the Seminary, this distinguished teacher and administrator experienced a personal tragedy as his son, Jackson Witherspoon, died at just 8 years old. His plot marked with a motif of a lamb bears the inscription, “The lamb is a fit emblem of this dear child who delighted to call himself his mother’s lamb.”
Reverend John L. Girardeau was born on October 6th, 1845 and died on April 5th, 1911.
He was a professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary and served as a chaplain in the 23rd South Carolina Infantry during the Civil War. The 23rd SC Infantry fought in the Battle of 2nd Manassas where they suffered 68% losses. The regiment also incurred heavy losses at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) and at Petersburg, Virginia at the Battle of the Crater. His marker bears the distinct motif of a Bible on a pulpit. His marker is inscribed, “After patiently enduring he obtained the promise, Hebrews 6.15.” Reverend Girardeau had two grandsons who served in World War I, Hearne Girardeau Jr. in the American Ambulance Service attached to the Italian Army, and Charles J. Girardeau, his younger brother, who saw action at the Battle of Champagne and around the Verdun front. Both brothers died in their thirties and were buried next to their grandfather in Elmwood Cemetery. Today, many male and female veterans are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. The cemetery has set aside a portion of land for a veteran’s section to allow family members a National Cemetery-like atmosphere somewhere closer than Florence or Beaufort.
Find out more about these and other fascinating Columbians at Historic Columbia’s popular Cemetery Tours which return on Thursday, April 13 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Elmwood Cemetery. Offered on the second Thursday of each month, April through September, Historic Columbia’s Cemetery Tours bring 160 years of history to life. Grab a flashlight and discover centuries of stories etched in stone on the markers and headstones found within Elmwood Cemetery’s acres of carefully planned grounds. To purchase tickets, visit historiccolumbia.org, email email@example.com or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
As part of the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative, Historic Columbia has been conducting research on Jewish owned businesses in downtown Columbia. Below are a few highlights of our recent research.
Barrett Visanska first appears as a jeweler on Richardson (Main) Street in the Columbia City Directory in 1875. He moved his business to 1215 Hampton Street, in the rear portion of the Sylvan’s Building in 1904, where he remained in business until his death in 1932. Like most of Columbia’s Jewish population in the late-19th and early-20th century, Barrett immigrated from Eastern Europe (Poland) and led a prosperous life. His son, Morton, was a founder of Columbia’s Town Theater, and his son, Daniel, and daughter, Bertha, were musicians who played for royalty in Europe.
Polish immigrant Ben David operated the Parlor Restaurant at 1336 Main Street from 1900 until 1910, when plans for the Arcade Mall forced him to relocate. His advertisements in the Columbia City Directory and USC’s Garnet and Black yearbook often included his likeness. His obituary in The State newspaper remembered him fondly as “Uncle Ben.”
The I. Cassel Cigar Factory, owned and operated by Isidor Cassel (1872 – 1954), was a tenant in the Phoenix Building (1623-1625 Main Street) for more than 40 years. Cassel immigrated from Ritschenwalde, Germany, to the United States in 1884. He joined the United States Marine Corps when he was 15 and served more than three years. He arrived in Columbia in 1892 to work for Henry Bamberg (1857 – 1919), a highly regarded cigar manufacturer and who served as the first treasurer of the Tree of Life Congregation. In 1896, Cassel married Bamberg’s sister-in-law, Estelle “Essie” Epstin Cassel (1877 – 1948). In 1901, Cassel opened his own cigar manufacturing business in the 1400 block of Main Street.
Join Historic Columbia on March 12th for our Sunday Stroll of downtown Jewish sites to learn more about the Visanskas, “Uncle Ben”, the Cassels and other downtown merchants in Columbia. This guided walking tour will highlight Columbia’s Jewish heritage and explore how Jewish merchants have shaped this downtown district. The tour will begin in front of Michael’s on Main Street, travel down to Lady Street where the tour will cross over to Assembly Street, then end at The Big Apple on Hampton Street.
Also be sure to check out HC’s web-based tour of Jewish historical sites in Columbia.
What is it about chili that causes temperatures to rise and elicits such passionate responses? Why do Americans from generation to generation have such a steadfast belief in what is the right and true way to make a proper chili? People throughout history have made their mark on the culinary evolution of this simple dish – from Lyndon B. Johnson claiming no one outside of Texas can make it, to Stephan Crane and O’Henry writing about it, to famous frontiersman Kit Carson exclaiming with his last breath “Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.”
Join Historic Columbia’s Palladium Society Saturday February 11th at the Music Farm to continue the tradition of perfecting the ever elusive quintessential chili. While South Carolina might not be seen as the hotbed of chili creations it is known for its ability to think outside the box and come up with some creative concoctions. Local ingredients like the Carolina Reaper (the hottest pepper in the world) and a ‘famously hot’ temperament give Carolina chilis their own unique flair. The competition heats up every year as 20 to 25 local cookers compete for different categories – from best vegetarian to hottest chili there is an array of opportunities to show off that Carolina culinary pride.
While local celebrities will be on hand to judge all categories, the people’s choice award comes down to the voters. When you are done tasting and sampling stay around to listen to the live music provided by both the Kenny George Band and the Nick Clyburn Band. Enjoy the all-you-can-drink beer and wines that will be on tap that evening and learn more about the roll that HC plays in creating a stronger foundation for the City of Columbia and Richland County. And if your taste buds aren’t on fire by the end of all that then dig into a heaping bowl of the TPS famous house ‘Godzilla Chili’.
The Palladium Society is a dynamic organization of young professionals that supports the mission of Historic Columbia through educational, social and fundraising initiatives. Now in its 19th year, the Palladium Society’s Chili Cookoff has become one of Columbia’s most popular events, and by attending, not only do you get to enjoy delicious chili but you are also supporting the projects and programs of Historic Columbia, including the rehabilitation and reinterpretation of the Hampton-Preston Mansion. To find out more and to get your tickets online, please CLICK HERE.
On September 25, Historic Columbia is pleased to host a members’ only reception for Dick Lehr at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. Lehr’s book, The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War, is an outstanding counter-history of the reaction and impact of one of early cinema’s most famous films.
Attendees will be invited to tour the Wilson Home to better understand the connection between the 28th president and the incendiary film. The author will sign books, which will be available for purchase on site. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your attendance.
In addition to the September 25 event, Historic Columbia and the History Center at USC are co-sponsoring a public talk on the book, with film clips from The Birth of a Nation, at the Nickelodeon Theater on September 26 at 7 p.m. This is a free event, but there is limited seating and reservations are required.
Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of a Nation
As a college professor, Woodrow Wilson wrote, “Reconstruction is still a revolutionary matter…..those who delve into it find it like a banked fire.” Reconstruction in South Carolina ended with the election of Wade Hampton as governor in 1876, just two years after Wilson, then known as Tommy, left his family home here in Columbia. Wilson still felt the heat of that “banked fire” in the White House, almost 40 years later. The first sitting president to view films in the White House, in 1915 Wilson viewed The Birth of a Nation, an epic silent film based on a book written by one of his college acquaintances. The Birth of a Nation, set in South Carolina with some scenes in Wilson’s former hometown of Columbia, offered a racist interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
While watching The Birth of a Nation, would Wilson have recalled his years in Columbia? What he thought of the film he did not say, leaving historians to interpret the event in a variety of ways. However, by his viewing it the movie’s producers capitalized on the White House connection, claiming the president endorsed it.
Today, the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, operated by Historic Columbia, is a physical connection to Reconstruction and a window into how this era has been represented historically and how it is remembered to today. It also allows 21st century visitors to ask important questions about how Reconstruction shaped a boy who would be president. Visit historiccolumbia.org for information on taking a house tour of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.
More on Mr. Lehr’s book The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War
In 1915, two men-one a journalist agitator, the other a technically brilliant filmmaker-incited a public confrontation that roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights. William Monroe Trotter and D. W. Griffith were fighting over a film that dramatized the Civil War and Reconstruction in a post-Confederate South. Almost fifty years earlier, Monroe’s father, James, was a sergeant in an all-black Union regiment that marched into Charleston, South Carolina, just as the Kentucky cavalry-including “Roaring Jake” Griffith, D. W.’s father-fled for their lives. Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation, included actors in blackface, heroic portraits of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and a depiction of Lincoln’s assassination. Freed slaves were portrayed as villainous, vengeful, slovenly, and dangerous to the sanctity of American values. It was tremendously successful, eventually seen by 25 million Americans. But violent protests against the film flared up across the country.
Monroe Trotter’s titanic crusade to have the film censored became a blueprint for dissent during the 1950s and 1960s. This is the fiery story of a revolutionary moment for mass media and the nascent civil rights movement, and the men clashing over the cultural and political soul of a still-young America standing at the cusp of its greatest days.
“D. W. Griffiths’ 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, may have been billed as the ‘Most Wonderful Motion Picture Ever,’ but to African Americans of the Jim Crow era, it was a grotesque reminder of how invisible their true lives-their history and their dreams-were across the color line. Speaking out against the white-hooded nostalgia the film inflamed, William Monroe Trotter, Harvard’s first black Phi Beta Kappa graduate and a leading newspaper editor, revived a protest tradition that would set the stage for the civil rights movement to follow. Distinguished journalist Dick Lehr’s account of this racial debate is not only enthralling to read; it reminds us of the singular importance of ‘the birth of’ Monroe Trotter.”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
CLICK HERE to become a member of Historic Columbia and enjoy the opportunity to attend events like these in the future!
Two cities that share a name, a historical tie, and a set of classmates, will come full circle this week: sharing relief from natural disaster. The citizens of Columbia, Mississippi have answered the call for aid posted to social media.
The Columbia MS for Columbia SC relief effort is targeted specifically:
1) to assist Columbia SC area hospital operations burdened due to the flood event,and
2) to support Columbia, SC hospital staff and patient families who have been displaced and are in need. Tnovsa is conducting this relief effort with the cooperation of the South Carolina Hospital Association, Palmetto Health, Providence Hospitals, the Dorn VA Medical Center and Moncrief Army Hospital.
According to the Lamar County Mississippi Genealogy and History Network, Columbia, Mississippi, located in Marion County, was named for Columbia, South Carolina, the city from which many of its early settlers had migrated. It changed its original name from Lott’s Bluff when it incorporated to Columbia on June 25, 1819, “in memory of a district and town back in South Carolina”.
Columbia SC / Columbia MS Relief Backstory
As New Year’s Eve 2015 neared, Columbia, South Carolina resident Catherine Fleming Bruce saw a post from College classmate Danon Vest Jones, describing the devastation in Columbia, Mississippi after an EF3 tornado left 5 dead and 50 injured a few days before Christmas. Danon was assisting area relief efforts and had turned to social media. In response, Catherine created the Facebook page ‘Columbia SC for Columbia MS: tornado relief’, took to local media to share the news , and challenged residents of the ‘Famously Hot’ City’ to help.
Nine months later, it is Columbia, South Carolina that is in dire need, struck by a massive ‘1000 year’ flood that has taken lives, destroyed homes, and damaged roads and bridges. Flooding that warranted a federal disaster declaration; flooding that is still unfolding.
After a city-wide water shutoff on October 4th and news that hospitals might have to evacuate patients, Bruce returned to the original FB page, inviting the people of Columbia Mississippi to help.
The Columbia, Mississippi response was immediate. In a few days, the plea for help from its new ‘sister city’ had been shared more than 18,000 times. Columbia Strong, the organization that led the tornado relief effort in Mississippi, is making a major commitment. The City of Columbia, Mississippi has declared October 10th and 11th “Days of Giving for Columbia, South Carolina!”, and will collect clean specific relief items and water to meet the drinking and cooking needs of hospitals in the Midlands.
A truck bearing aid from Columbia, Mississippi is set to arrive at the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center, 2101 Walker Solomon Way in Columbia, South Carolina at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, October 13th, welcomed by hospital and local officials.
Jeremy Robbins of Columbia, Mississippi reports: “We have organized relief efforts for our sister city, Columbia, SC. They were among the first to respond to our needs after the December 23rd tornado so unfortunately, in this short time, we shall return the kindness. “
For information about the Columbia, Mississippi relief efforts for Columbia, South Carolina contact Mrs. Danon Vest at 601-906-8483.
For information about the Columbia SC for Columbia MS effort in January 2015, and the current outreach to Columbia, Mississippi for help with flood relief targeting Columbia South Carolina hospitals, contact Catherine Fleming Bruce, 803-521-2057.
For information about the Columbia, Mississippi relief efforts to Columbia, South Carolina Hospitals, contact Regina Brown, Palmetto Health, at 803-296-2961 or via cell 803-237-6548.