Thursday, February 27, 2014
Rhoda Green was glad to find out that Goose Creek has strong ties to her home country of Barbados.
Green and her husband moved to the Charleston area in 1978, but she didn’t see firsthand Goose Creek’s Barbadian ties until more recently.
Green is the founder and CEO of Barbados & the Carolinas Legacy Foundation, a non-profit that explores links bridging the historic divide.
The mission is to promote opportunities for collaboration among the two places. “One of the things that drew us was the similarities, the parishes,” Green said. “I get interested in the history and read a lot on my own.”
Green said she’s read history books by Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler.
That’s how Green learned Goose Creek became the hub, which is what drew her to the fascinating city, she said.
Green recently visited Goose Creek with Barbados Senator Henry Fraser and President of the Barbados National Trust Penny Hynam. Heitzler gave them a tour of historic places.
“The St. James Goose Creek Church is comparable to the St. James Parish in Barbados, where I lived,” Green said. “I had been there several times. You didn’t have to do a lot to put the pieces together.”
She said the names of historic figures like John Yeamans, who came from Barbados to Goose Creek and owned plantations, rang a bell.
Yeamans’ Hall was his first plantation near Hanahan, which is now a private golf course, Green said.
Barbados was the center point of the British Colonies, Green said. Barbados gained its independence in 1966.
“Goose Creek emerges as the hub, the center, and set the tone of what became the societal structure of the Carolinas,” Green said. “The history surrounding the Goose Creek men was deemed ‘colonial history.’
“From my vantage point that speaks to the Africans who were brought over as slaves, outnumbered whites and were a big part of that history. They were the real players in colonial history but have not been focused on except as an aside. And native Indians. The history of the colonial past can’t stand on its own without the role the slaves played.
“Slaves from early Barbados settlers would have came from Barbados and other Caribbean islands. Slaves brought to Albemarle Point (Charleston in 1670) were from Barbados.”
After rice became an agricultural product in the 1730s, South Carolina plantation owners started bringing slaves from West Africa.
“Some early Goose Creek settlers were indentured servants, poor whites, which Barbados had a lot of,” Green said. “Under the Cromwellian period a lot of Scottish and Irish indentured servants were brought to Barbados. A lot of them got little to no land.”
John Colleton was another pivotal plantation owner in Barbados. Some of those plantations are still there today in Barbados. Some have been restored and some are in disrepair, Green said.
She said some of Colleton’s heirs are still in Barbados.
“You can’t escape it,” she said. “His presence and the face that the colonists were there has been memorialized.”
Robert Daniel was one of the Goose Creek men with Barbados connections who owned Daniel Island.
“All of these people you read about in history, you see the link,” Green said. “It makes history come alive. It’s no longer a dead book on the shelf.
“You realize you’re walking on the very earth where these people traveled. When I travel up Rivers Avenue anymore I think of the Goose Creek path.
“I’ve gotten new eyes, a new understanding about the Goose Creek, North Charleston and Hanahan areas. Now people only know the names, not the history.
“History comes to life when you know what happened in the past and the construct of society. It gives you a better understanding of why things are the way they are. It puts you in a good place in the present and the future. It makes sense.
“A lot of people want to know about their ancestry. They have to look at a lot of records. Geneologists have to confront history when they look for geneaological roots.
“English people settled Barbados. That model went though there and other islands and eventually the Carolinas.”
Green said she is in contact with people in Barbados, where she went to high school.
“I contacted scholars there and told them this was spectacular. I engaged them. They weren’t necessarily following the path to South Carolina.
“Over many visits I engaged people in Barbados. I’ve taken a number of groups, black and white, to Barbados.”
The country gave her an Order of Barbados Crown of Silver Merit award in 2000, Green said. It’s the third highest honor a Barbadian can receive. In 2005 Green was made a Barbados Honorary Consul for South Carolina.
“It’s not some outdated community or island,” Green said. “The descendants of colonial history makers are there. It is important for them to be engaged in the discussion.
“Barbados from the English perspective was called ‘Little England.’ When they came to America they called it ‘Little Bristol.’
“It’s clearly different from the other islands because it was always under British rule.”
Many Barbadians ignore the history and many white people have left, Green said. The population is about 90 percent black according to Green.
There is a 99.7 percent literacy rate in what she calls a middle-class country.
Barbados is only 166 square miles and is a feeder island. Green said people who didn’t have enough land moved to other islands. “That accounts for so many people when they do their geneology. They have to go to Barbados. People like me find themselves in other places because of size. They can’t accommodate everyone.
“Planters had to look for other places, so that reality still exists. It’s a continuing story.
“That history is so real. We would like to explore anything that would be beneficial to South Carolina. Engage and learn. It is enriching. To me it’s liberating.”
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