Slavery and its Legacies: Sites of Fellowship

Churches and other religious institutions have been a source of community strength and support for many Black Charlestonians. Sometimes, Black residents were able to carve out spaces for themselves within white churches; at other times, they formed institutions of their own. These sites not only provided space for worship, but they also served as facilitators of community cohesion and even social activism. The history of Black religious sites in Charleston is diverse, and these sites reveal many of these social and cultural complexities.

This tour was developed in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston. In Spring 2020, graduate students in Dr. Rachel Donaldson’s History 590 crafted 5 thematic tours focusing on the history of slavery and its enduring legacies in the city of Charleston. Using the College of Charleston as the center, the tours move outward from the campus in a radius of eight blocks or less to the north, south, east, and west to sites that reveal stories of community endurance, resistance, fellowship, and agency. While we emphasized sites and structures that remain visible in the built environment, we also uncovered the stories of sites that have been lost over time. Our work, as we see it, is part of current efforts to uncover, document, and interpret the history and legacy of slavery on the cultural landscape.

St. Peter’s Church, 34 Wentworth Street

Here at 34 Wentworth Street stood St. Peter’s Catholic Church from 1867 to 1967. While a single church can be lost within the many steeples of Charleston’s “Holy City,” St. Peter’s Church illustrates an exciting chapter in Charleston history:…

Old Bethel United Methodist Church, 222 Calhoun Street

Old Bethel United Methodist Church is the third oldest existing church building in Charleston, and it is the only Black Methodist Church that originated in the Antebellum period. Old Bethel began as a racially mixed congregation; as a result, it…

Zion Presbyterian Church, 123 Calhoun Street

Where the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel sits on the corner of Meeting and Calhoun streets, once stood Zion Presbyterian Church, one of the most important churches within the African American community in Charleston. Originally, the nearby Second…

Mt. Zion AME Church, 5 Glebe Street

The building at 5 Glebe Street was designed by Edward C. Jones and constructed between 1847 and 1848. Jones was influenced by the simplified classicism seen in English churches of the same period. There are only a few church buildings in Charleston…

Central Baptist Church, 26 Radcliffe Street

Constructed in 1891, Central Baptist Church marks a notable achievement during the early Jim Crow era for being the first church in Charleston that was designed by a Black architect, funded by the Black community, and built by Black workers. Though…

Centenary United Methodist Church, 60 Wentworth

Charleston has one of the longest and richest histories of Black church communities in the United States. The church has served as a rallying point for the Black community―before and after emancipation―to organize for political, social, and economic…

Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, 16 Thomas Street

The origins of this Thomas Street church, constructed in 1878, lie in the free Black community that composed its congregation. During the antebellum period, the free Black community of Radcliffeborough and Cannonborough lived under tight constraints,…
This project was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Slavery’s Public History Working Group and by the 250th Anniversary Historical Documentation Committee, with additional support from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), the Department of History, the Graduate School, and the College’s department of Marketing and Communications.

Research and Publication Assistance provided by Harlan Greene, Julia Eichelberger, Rachel Donaldson, Aaisha Haykal, Grayson Harris, Noah Dubois, Barry Stiefel, and Mary Jo Fairchild. Special thanks for images and permissions provided by Historic Charleston Foundation, Catholic Diocese of Charleston, Charleston Museum, Addlestone Library’s Special Collections, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, and C of C’s Department of Marketing and Communications.

Website Curator: Grayson Harris
This site will be updated as new information becomes available. If you have additional images or information to contribute to this tour, please contact us at discoveringourpast-group@cofc.edu.