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Unearthing Treasures: Tracing Your African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society

newheadUnearthing Treasures: Tracing Your African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society

On Saturday, November 9, the South Carolina Historical Society will partner with Lowcountry Africana to host a day-long introductory seminar on tracing African American ancestry in South Carolina, showcasing the rich archival resources at the SCHS and how these can open new research windows for African American ancestry research. Conducted by Toni Carrier, Ramona LaRoche, and Paul Garbarini with help from the South Carolina Historical Society’s archival staff, the seminar will cover the most important aspects and research strategies for finding ancestors of African descent. Treasures from the SCHS’s rich collection will be on display and will inform our discussion.

Participants will spend the morning learning how to decipher meaning from archival records such as plantation journals, maps, and plats, and images. In addition, the wealth of web-based resources for conducting African American genealogical research, many of which are available through Lowcountry Africana’s website, will be discussed.

After lunch, the remainder of the seminar will be spent conducting hands-on archival research in the collections of the South Carolina Historical Society with assistance from seminar leaders and archivists.

Date: Saturday, November 9, 2013
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Cost: $10.00 (for lunch)
Location: 100 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29401

To register, please call Virginia Ellison at 843-723-3225 ext. 11

This is event is made possible through generous sponsorship from the Humanities Council of South Carolina.

Congratulations Senator Elect Marlon Kimpson!



State Sen.-elect Marlon Kimpson credited many people for his landslide win Tuesday — his wife and family, his campaign staff, advisers and volunteers, Democratic leaders — and tea party Republicans in Congress.

Marlon Kimpson


Age: 44

Education: Morehouse College; University of South Carolina Law School

Family: Wife, Kimberlyn, one daughter.

Occupation: Lawyer with Motley Rice.

Previous elective office: None.

Previous public service: Former first vice chair of S.C. Democratic Party; former chairman of the State Election Commission.

Contact information: (843) 225-2777;;


That might sound strange coming from Charleston’s newest Democratic lawmaker, but Kimpson thinks last week’s government shutdown helped push his vote toward 80 percent.

During the campaign, Kimpson made it clear that a vote for him is a vote to further Obama’s agenda in South Carolina, adding, “This extremist agenda to shut down the government really frustrates the people in District 42. … We doubled our numbers from the runoff.”

Kimpson will be sworn in Monday to the seat formerly held by Robert Ford, the veteran Democratic senator who resigned in May amid ethical and health problems.

And while Kimpson has several ideas for how state government should improve public education, health care, organized labor and the environment, he said his immediate goals are to learn the Senate’s rules, learn his committee assignments and study the bills pending in those committees.

In a broader sense, he said his goal is simply this: “To make sure government works for the people.”

Horatio Alger

When Kimpson spoke to more than 100 supporters on election night, he recalled his father’s humble upbringing in rural Calhoun County.

“His biggest claim to fame was picking 250 pounds of seed cotton,” Kimpson said, “but my daddy picked seed cotton so that he could go to Benedict College and graduate and go on to be a math teacher. My mamma? A Title One school teacher.”

Kimpson was born in Columbia and grew up there, within sight of a public housing project. He graduated from Morehouse College and worked as a banker before going to law school and joining the Lowcountry’s large plaintiff’s firm, Motley Rice.

Charleston County Democratic Chairman Richard Hricik said Kimpson’s rise from humble beginnings is part of his political appeal.

“It’s a Horatio Alger story, and that resonates a lot with me,” he said. “I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college and to graduate from law school. Marlon is the America story. Here’s a guy who literally came from not-very-much and here he sits as a state senator. That’s a testament to his character.”

Hricik gave an unusual boost to Kimpson during his Democratic primary battle, mainly by frequently pointing out that Kimpson’s main opponent, former Charleston City Councilman Maurice Washington, had as much history with Republicans as Democrats.

Kimpson said he is not familiar with Alger, a 19th century American author who wrote stories about boys rising from poverty to great success, but said his family’s story resonates with voters in the district.

“You have people who are hard-working, and they want their children to participate and enjoy the American dream.”

Kimpson and Ford

To say Kimpson was not Ford’s hand-picked successor is understating things.

Ford actively backed Washington during the Democratic primary, and made a last-minute endorsement of Kimpson’s Republican opponent, Billy Shuman, just days before Tuesday’s election.

Kimpson and Ford clearly clash on one issue — the idea of providing vouchers or tax credits to parents who send their children to private school.

Ford was open to the idea; Kimpson is not.

And where Ford had expressed support for legalizing forms of gambling, such as video poker, to raise state revenues, Kimpson has not gone there.

Kimpson also did not want to go into detailed comparisons about how he would differ from his predecessor. “I’m not in a position to judge what Senator Ford did or didn’t do. I just want to move forward to usher in a new era of leadership and play a substantive role for citizens who live in the district.”

But he did draw an oblique comparison, noting that he has a full-time job.

“I am a very good lawyer, and I enjoy practicing law,” he said. “That was a positive in this campaign: I had an independent source of income that I can keep. I think it’s important when you are in public service that you have the ability to say no to special-interest groups when it’s not to the advantage to the people you represent. Having a source of income helps you do that.”

Ford, who had no other job outside his senate position, ultimately was found to have misused his campaign donations for personal expenses.

Kimpson’s election Tuesday makes him one of Charleston’s highest-profile African American politicians. At his relatively young age, 44, some will surely throw his name in the mix for higher office, but Kimpson said that all can wait.

“I have not thought of anything beyond the state Senate,” he said.

Senate brotherhood

Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said he has known Kimpson for almost 30 years, and both are members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. “That’s a big deal to folks in the community,” Malloy said.

Kimpson felt strongly enough about his fraternity that he used its purple and gold colors and four stars — which represent manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift — on his campaign signs.

Malloy said he liked Ford, and he expects Kimpson, like Ford, will represent his constituents, a group that includes much of metro Charleston’s African-American population.

After the election, Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, called to congratulate Kimpson, who went to law school with Thurmond’s brother and who works with one of Thurmond’s friends from law school.

“I’m interested in seeing what Marlon’s ideas and desires are. I haven’t talked to him about that,” Thurmond said. “He’s a very capable, high-intensity individual, and I think he is going to be a good addition. I look forward to working with him. Most of all, I hope I can be persuasive with him.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.

Artist Jonathan Green stirs up new look at Lowcountry’s rice past!


Artist Jonathan Green — the pride of Gardens Corner — has turned his wild palette to something so common in the Lowcountry, its significance has all but disappeared.

Green is splashing his colorful imagination on white rice.

His new series of 25 works of acrylic on paper is called “Unenslaved: Rice Culture Paintings by Jonathan Green.” It will show through Dec. 15 at the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History.

Green also is pulling his world of followers into the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project. It is hosting the Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum this weekend in Charleston.

“The Lowcountry Rice Culture Project proposes to discover and revive the significance of rice cultivation and its legacies,” its website says, “and to use this history as a launching off point for broad discussions of race, class, art, trade, history and economics — in short, the various aspects of culture in the Southeast.”

Food writer Vertamae Grosvenor was tickled to hear about it.

She was born in Hampton County but has lived in Paris and around the globe, writing about food and cooking as an expression of culture.

She was among the first to show the world there is an ingredient called pride in Lowcountry cuisine in her 1970 book, “Vibration Cooking: The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl.” She has written a number of cookbooks, and hosted public radio and public television shows. Now she’s back among the “rice-eaters” of home.

Rice-eaters were made fun of during the migration of blacks to Northern cities, she said. For her, it was in Philadelphia that schoolchildren made fun of the warm rice she brought for lunch while they all had sandwiches.

In the Lowcountry, if rice wasn’t on the table for every meal, you were talked about. Grosvenor told how the questioning would go after you got back from dinner:

” ‘How was it,’ they would ask, and you’d answer, ‘Ooh, it was terrible. The food tasted good, but honey, there wasn’t a grain of rice on that table.’ And they’d say, ‘You’re kidding! You’re lying!’ ”

When little Vertamae was about 8 years old, her grandmother traveled from the Lowcountry to Philadelphia for a visit.

She recalls: “We were having dinner — I’m talking about probably 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon, but you know they called everything ‘dinner’ — and my grandmother said, ‘Oh, give me some more rice. This rice is so good. Who cooked this rice?’ And I’ll never forget it. My mother pointed to me. She said, ‘What? That gal cooked this rice? It’s perfect. Every grain to itself.’

“I remember throwing my little shoulders back. That was an Academy Award.”

Today, she’s working on a memoir called “Ricely Yours,” borrowing a line from Louis Armstrong.

“This is good about Jonathan’s rice thing,” Grosvenor said. “That’s very important. And you know what? I’d like to see people go back to understanding about goobers, too.”

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at

More than 270 come out for annual NAACP banquet

0917 NAACP banquet

More than 270 people attended the 65th annual Craven County Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet Saturday at the Flame Banquet Center in New Bern.

The event was hosted by the Rev. Armandez Crawford and Johnny “Koolout” Starks of KISS-102.

The featured speaker was Dr. Patricia Williams-Lessane, director of the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. She is the sister of the Craven County Branch NAACP President Marshall Williams.

Mayoral candidates Barbara Lee, Sabrina Bengel, Dana Outlaw, Tharesa Lee and Denny Bucher, along with alderman candidates Johnnie Ray Kinsey, Bee Mayo, Bernard White, Alfred Barfield, Micah Grimes, Susan Namowicz and Victor Taylor, were present. Each candidate was allotted two minutes to speak to guests regarding their plans for office should they be elected.

Community service awards were presented to groups who have worked diligently to improve their community. Organizations honored were: the 6th Masonic District, Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of NC; District 6, Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliated; Theta Beta Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; New Bern Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Iota Sigma Zeta Chapter, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; and Arabian Temple No. 42, A.E.A.O.N.M.S.

The Presidential Award was presented to Mary Randolph, a 92-year-old resident of New Bern. She is a historian and advocate for her community. Randolph was in attendance with several of her family members.

James “Tall Jack” Jackson, vice president of the Craven County Democratic Party, said he really looks forward to the banquet and comes every year. He said Saturday’s event was one of the nicest ones that he has attended and that he truly enjoyed the speaker.

Jackson also pointed out the New Bern is very rich in African-American history.

Pam Woods, vice president of the local NAACP Chapter and banquet chairperson, said this is the organization’s only fundraiser.

The NAACP was founded in 1909 and is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization with more than 500,000 members and supporters throughout the United States.

For more information or to join the local NAACP, contact Marshall Williams, president, at

Tina Adkins can be reached at 252-635-5681 or Follow her on Twitter @tinaladkins.

Congratulations Lucille S. Whipper!



Lucille S. Whipper, iconic stateswoman, educator and Charleston civic pillar, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Marjorie Amos-Frazier Pacesetter Award for lasting civic and humanitarian contributions. Montez C. Martin, Jr., award selection chairman, made the announcement today after his 9 member committee chose Whipper in a meeting at the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center, a nationally recognized repository of African American history that Whipper helped to establish in 1985, the same year she was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. Whipper served in the state legislature from 1986-1996.

The award, named in honor of the late Marjorie Amos-Frazier (1926-2010), the first woman, African-American and non-legislator elected to the South Carolina Public Service Commission in 1980, will be presented to Whipper at the Blue Jamboree on October 26 at The Jenkins Institute in North Charleston. The award and the Blue Jamboree are sponsored by West Ashley Democrats. For more information visit:

As members of the Avery Normal School class of 1944, Whipper and her classmates sought to integrate the College of Charleston. As Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Human Relations at the College of Charleston in 1972, Whipper became the first African-American administrator and developed the College’s first affirmative action plan.

In the late sixties, Whipper and others organized Operation Catch-Up, a tutorial program for high school students that was the forerunner of the Upward Bound programs found today on college campuses nationwide. She was elected to Charleston’s District 20 Constituent School Board from 1978-82.

Whipper is the recipient of numerous awards including Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Morris College, (1989), the University of Charleston (1992) and the College of Charleston (2008). She is a former member of the Morris College Board of Trustees and the Benedict College Board of Trustees. In 1995, Whipper was inducted into the SC Black Hall of Fame and awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 1996.

Currently a member of Morris Street Baptist Church, Whipper has served her denomination as a faculty member of the National Congress of Christian Education, and was Past President of the Woman’s Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina.