This is no longer a selling point, some residents want the “plantation” to be removed

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When Carol Casey moved from Ohio to South Carolina 27 years ago, she chose Hilton Head Plantation, a sprawling 4,200-home development built on several old cotton plantations on Hilton Head Island. She says the word “plantation” made the property attractive and southern.

But at a time when the monuments of the Confederation are falling, other symbols of the old South are also called into question, including the word plantation. By 1860, there were nearly 200 plantations in the coastal region of Beaufort County, South Carolina, which depended on slave labor. Subdivisions currently on these properties still use this word. And there is growing interest in properties like Hilton Head Plantation changing their names.

Casey is not on board. “You shouldn’t change anything, it’s there,” she said. “Like, they shouldn’t tear down monuments and degrade them.”

In a recent march for justice in Beaufort, protesters recognized the place of the “plantation” in southern history – but expressed it was time for a change.

“In a way, it’s a landmark – almost a reminder of where we’ve come from, but at the same time someone might be taking it in a disrespectful way,” Lawton said.

“If you want equal justice for all, you have to take it away,” said Monique Eilets.

The notion of relaxed living in the South also drew Judy Dunning to Hilton Head Plantation. She said she just needed to find a house but knew what the word meant. “A plantation was a place of hard work and cruelty and when they started building Hilton Head Plantation – the resorts – they put it all aside and just said it was a beautiful, graceful lifestyle,” she says.

It was upon seeing the video of George’s Floyd’s death that led her to petition to have the word removed from the community’s name.

“You have to be thinking to yourself, it’s worse for African Americans than we thought, and you have to face your own insensitivity to buying things like this,” Dunning says.

In the 1920s and 1930s, wealthy industrialists in the North bought by seizing some of the old plantation properties and turning them into private hunting centers. “The northerners who settled here and bought the large hunting lodges for recreation called them plantations because they wanted to emulate the old South …” says Larry Roland, professor emeritus of history at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort. “Many of these great industrialists from the North married these girls from the South who were the descendants of these plantation families because they were pretty chic girls.”

But it wasn’t until the late 1950s that developers on Hilton Head Island began building upscale housing communities and began marketing them as plantations.

Isabella Miller is 16 and Gullah, people of a unique culture and language who were left behind on the Sea Islands after Emancipation.

“It’s a story of battered black people,” she said. “But look at it now: you have fancy golf courses and restaurants and the beach. So come on and forget everything that happened.”

Miller wrote a letter to the local newspaper The island package, which generated not-so-nice responses.

It is sad to feel unwelcome in a place that we have built.

“I think each of us has a different relationship to words,” Miller says. “You know, if a white person walks into their neighborhood and uses a plantation, you might not think much about it – you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s called a plantation? But for black people here, I’ve never heard my family say, “It’s just a word. I’ve never heard my family say, “It doesn’t matter. It is sad to feel unwelcome in a place that we have built. ”

On Hilton Head Island, Sea Pines Plantation became Sea Pines Resort over 20 years ago. Wexford Plantation dropped the word earlier this summer, and Palmetto Hall Plantation sent out name change ballots to its residents. Management at Hilton Head Plantation did not respond to interview requests.

Katherine Kokal, reporter at Hilton Head Island for The Island Package and The Beaufort Gazette, contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 High Plains Public Radio


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